Priority setting for health system strengthening in low income countries. A qualitative case study illustrating the complexities
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Health systems are critical to the realisation of Universal Health Coverage. There has been insufficient attention to the evaluation of priority setting for health system strengthening within low income countries, including evaluation of the local capacity to implement priorities. This study evaluated the extent to which health system strengthening was prioritized in Uganda. The Kapiriri & Martin framework was used to evaluate health system priority setting from 2005-2015. A document analysis was triangulated with interview data (n = 67) from global, national and subnational stakeholders and analysed using content analysis. Health system strengthening was perceived to be circumvented by a lack of resources as well as influential actors with disease focused, rather than system-oriented, interests. There were defined processes with explicit criteria for identifying priorities and evidence was highly valued. But sub-optimal transparency and weak accountability often compromised the integrity of priority setting and contributed to stalling progress on health system strengthening and achieving health system outcomes. The strengths in the current planning processes should be harnessed. In addition, a systematic approach to priority setting, potentially through the establishment of an independent body, and stronger oversight mechanisms, would strengthen health system planning in this setting.
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