From April 21-24, 2013, a distinguished audience comprising of more than 20 serving and former Ministers of Finance, former Prime Ministers and Presidents, prominent scholars and economists participated in the Ministerial Leadership in Health Forum at Harvard University.
The forum focused on devising strategies to improve value for money in health care spending and innovative health financing options. It sought to find ways to balance the pressure between increased health and social sector spending and limited financial resources.
“This forum is an opportunity for Ministers to leave their portfolio at the door, and engage in frank discussions about the challenges of being Finance Ministers”, said Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), during his opening dinner address.
Kaberuka stressed the need for Africa to use its domestic resources and aid more efficiently and the Bank’s commitment to work with other partners to implement its Value for Money program, which originated at the Tunis Ministerial Conference on Value for Money, Sustainability and Accountability in July 2012.
The Harvard forum focused on fostering dialogue and partnership between African ministries of finance and health and exchanging ideas and best practices among the most successful global leaders and experts in health financing.
“Health is too important to be left to solely the Health Ministry”, said Julio Frenk, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and former Minister of Health of Mexico.
The Ministerial Leadership in Health Forum, exclusively designed for Ministers of Finance, is the first of its kind, organized by the African Development Bank’s Human Development Department in partnership with Harvard and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). Agnes Soucat, AfDB Director for Human Development, and Feng Zhao, Manager of the Health Division at the AfDB, each led a session, on Value for Money and public-private partnerships, respectively.
The goal of the forum was to highlight the importance of transformational political leadership in improving national health, as well as the importance of health for national economic development and poverty eradication.
A world-class expert resource group led sessions throughout the intense three-day forum. This group included Lawrence Summers, former United States Secretary of the Treasurer, who stressed the opportunities to improve health systems in the wake of the science and technology revolution. He also highlighted the critical importance of measuring and collecting data to ensure greater efficiency in the health sector.
Trevor Manuel, former Minister of Finance of South Africa, shared his experience as Finance Minister in shaping public policy, urging participants to think about healthcare in the long-term, and put in place systems for preventative care.
Jamil Mahuad, former President of Ecuador, shared his insights about leadership during economic and social transformation.
Tim Thahane, Former Minister of Finance of Lesotho, shared his experience in setting up a public-private partnership in hospital management. Financed by the government and managed by the private sector, the hospital was able to quadruple the number of patients treated daily, with the same budget.
“Thanks to our AfDB for seeing the future of Africa when others don’t see. We need this kind of vision in Africa to lead the value for money agenda”, asserted Luisa Dias Diogo, former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Mozambique, on behalf of the participants during the closing session.
Ministers deemed this a successful and high-impact event, appealing for continued engagement as a community, in addition to country-level follow up. Following the ministerial forum, customized country-level leadership and consensus-building activities will take place, at the request of participating countries.
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