From November 25-28, 2013, a workshop on maternal health fee exemption policies is being organised in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). Its objective is to draw conclusions on such policies through research results and the experiences of key actors.
For more than a decade now, a number of African countries have been implementing national fee exemption policies targeting certain services (HIV, malaria, deliveries, Caesarean sections, etc…) or specific population categories (children under 5, pregnant women, the elderly, etc…). The objective of most of these policies is to increase chances of reaching the MDGs and also to reduce financial barriers to accessing health care.
If there is one major shortcoming, however, it is that most of these policies were hurriedly implemented, began on a national scale without a pilot phase, and worse, without having designed or put in place any evaluation mechanisms to measure their effects.
Knowledge on fee exemption schemes: much production, but too little sharing and utilisation
Such highly political processes and hasty implementation present clear methodological challenges to those who wish to evaluate fee exemption schemes. And yet, many different research programs have undertaken studies on the subject and their results are now starting to become available. A number of NGOs have documented their fee exemption interventions. Managers of fee exemption schemes and front-line implementers also have important tacit knowledge that should be shared.
One common characteristic of the period in which these policies were implemented (2000-2010), is that there existed no platform in place for exchange and knowledge management among implementing countries. No doubt this at least partially explains why technical and scientific knowledge already available at the time was rarely used to improve fee exemption policies, leading to a cycle of repeating the same avoidable mistakes.
This situation did, however, lead people to realize the importance of creating such a platform for knowledge and experience sharing, and as such, the Financial Access to Health Services Community of practice (FAHS CoP) was launched.
A more scientific workshop
So it is with great pleasure – and we think a fair amount of legitimacy, that the FAHS CoP announces the upcoming workshop in Ouagadougou dedicated to the evaluation of maternal health services fee exemptions in Africa.
Many of you will remember the one held in Bamako in November 2011. With this upcoming, and most likely last CoP workshop on the topic, we feel confident we can close this chapter of knowledge production.The Ouagadougou workshop will be more scientific than Bamako was: it will allow us to highlight and share the knowledge created through studies carried out on maternal health fee exemptions by different research consortiums, including those linked to the FEMHealth project, the University of Montreal and the University of Heidelberg.
The workshop aims to bring together countries implementing maternal health fee exemptions with research teams who have been investigating these policies in Africa. The goal of this workshop will not be to judge the choices countries have made regarding maternal health fee exemptions, but rather to help them to make them more effective and efficient so as to improve the health of their populations.
In order to facilitate a maximum of exchange, a call for abstracts covering 10 themes has been issued not only for researchers, but also for managers and implementers of such schemes. We would like to invite you to share your experience on the topic through this blog, and also by submitting an abstract for the Ouagadougou workshop. On behalf of the Institute for Health Sciences Research (Ouagadougou), we look forward to welcoming you to Burkina Faso.
(Translation: Allison Kelley)