Fend off diseases before outbreaks: CWGH

The insight was shared by CWGH executive director Itai Rusike, as government began stakeholder engagements to come up with a comprehensive NHI.

THE Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) said this week investing in strategies to combat disease outbreaks should be a crucial part of developing a robust National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

The insight was shared by CWGH executive director Itai Rusike, as government began stakeholder engagements to come up with a comprehensive NHI.

Rusike’s plan seeks to make health care affordable through improving the quality of life and curtailing deadly diseases.

The CWGH director noted that global trends showed countries with efficient health schemes invest towards preventing the spread of diseases.

“To fully achieve the full potential of a NHI scheme, actions to address the social determinants of health must be implemented,” Rusike said. “Experiences from countries that have successfully introduced NHI schemes underscore the importance of prioritising preventive measures and health promotion, aiming to keep the population healthy and reduce the burden of preventable diseases.”

Investing in a solid primary health care system, Rusike added, would help towards reducing costs associated with seeking treatment. This would make healthcare accessible to the country’s population.

“A robust primary care system can manage acute, chronic and social conditions affordably and effectively and could be the answer to both controlling costs and improving people’s health and well-being.

“Primary care lowers the costs of health services through cost–effective preventive health care. This reduces reliance on costly acute care, such as specialists, emergency departments or other hospital services.”

With Zimbabwe’s public hospitals in a shambolic state characterised by acute drug shortages and skills flight due to limited funding, it was imperative for the government to revive health infrastructure, Rusike noted.

He also stressed that equipping health facilities with adequate and trained personnel would be important.

“It is important to strengthen public health infrastructure. Public health infrastructure has been referred to as ‘the nerve centre of the public health system’. Public health infrastructure provides the necessary foundation for undertaking the basic responsibilities of public health and of a strong resilient health system akin to that of Zimbabwe in the mid-1980s to late 1990s,” he said.

“There is need to ensure the sustainability and competitiveness of the health workforce, particularly to secure adequate numbers of health professionals in remote areas as well as improving working conditions, remuneration and career prospects, especially for nurses, to support retention.”

He said coming up with a diversified funding mechanism was another avenue the government could explore and strengthen the NHI.

“Ensuring the financial sustainability of the NHI requires that sources of funding be diversified and extended beyond payroll contributions to include a range of earmarked taxes such as value-added tax, sin taxes, and sugar taxes. In Zimbabwe, because of the huge informal economy, solely relying on payroll taxes and contributions will not be sustainable, hence the need for a diversified funding mix.

“Most countries have relied on a combination of general tax- and contribution-based financing mechanisms through modalities that reflect the specific characteristics of their economies and the needs of their people. Thailand and Ghana have successfully implemented a NHI based on a diversified financing mechanism including payroll contributions, sin taxes, sugar taxes, and value added tax,” Rusike said.

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