Strengthening health care systems a top priority for African finance ministers

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Improving health outcomes in African nations requires not just boosting investment in health, but strengthening the capacity of national health care delivery systems, according to speakers at a gathering of African finance ministers at Harvard in early April.

“It is not only about increasing the amount of money for health, but also increasing the health for the money,” said Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Dean Julio Frenk at the event, held at the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge. The second annual Ministerial Forum for Finance Ministers was jointly organized by HSPH and the African Development Bank. A select group of serving finance ministers were invited to the Forum for their demonstrated interest in health sector strengthening in their nations.

Keynote speaker Helen Clark, former New Zealand prime minister and current head of the UN Development Programme, underscored the well-established correlation between health and economic development. “If moral and economic reasons are not sufficient to compel increased national investment in health, the convergence of infections and non-communicable diseases in most African countries will make it unavoidable,” she said.