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Strengthening health policies and systems

The two years covered here, from July 2013 to June 2015, were a period of transformation for the Commonwealth Secretariat as we worked to translate into practical action our Strategic Plan from 2013/14 to 2016/17. The Plan is a clearly signposted roadmap, following implementation of the most fundamental reforms for a generation, both of the work we do and of the way we do it.

Commonwealth Secretariat outcomes: Health

  • Facilitated arrangements between Public Health England and Seychelles and Sierra Leone to strengthen public health laboratories
  • Worked with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone to place a longterm technical consultant to assist Sierra Leone in strengthening its national public health system
  • St Lucia now has a National Human Resources for Health (HRH) Policy which will guide and influence decisions made by both private and public health sector organisations relating to strategic human resources initiatives and investments to deliver “the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time to save a life and can change a life”.
  • The Mauritius Ministry of Health and Quality of Life now has a final draft Bill ‘Allied Health Professions Bill’ along with supporting regulations. This Bill, which has been accepted as the basis for an application to the State Law Office (and thereafter Parliament), will, once enacted, provide for the establishment of a Health Professions Council to oversee the registration and licensure of allied health professionals, regulate their professional conduct and ensure that premises are safe.

The Secretariat provided policy advice and technical support to member countries in order to strengthen policy and regulatory frameworks for health and education. Expertise deployed for analysing policies and developing strategies helped bridge gaps between the formulation and implementation of policies to realise national health and education goals.

In-depth research and analysis of policies commissioned by the Secretariat, and documentation of Commonwealth practices, informed ministerial meetings and related forums. The Secretariat focused particularly on the implications of the Post-2015 Development Agenda for member countries.

As part of the current reforms, the Commonwealth Secretariat launched an electronic hub to facilitate Commonwealth-wide communication on education. Between 2013 and 2015, the Commonwealth Secretariat made significant contributions to global health debates through its convening power and networks, thought leadership and high-level advocacy on issues relevant to member countries.

Strengthening universal health coverage

The theme of the annual Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in 2015 in Geneva was ‘Universal health coverage, with an emphasis on ageing and good health’. The meeting highlighted the centrality of universal health coverage in the Post- 2015 Development Agenda while recognising the challenge of an ageing population and the need to promote preventive health care, particularly in the face of increasing non-communicable diseases.

While acknowledging the need for a life-course approach to health care, ministers noted the importance of ensuring the ‘unfinished business’ of the Millennium Development Goals, such as the need to reduce maternal, new-born and child mortality. Health ministers reviewed presentations from across the Commonwealth on best practices in improving access to quality, affordable health care.

Strengthening public health laboratories

In collaboration with Public Health England, the Commonwealth Secretariat facilitated twinning arrangements and provided technical support to strengthen the capacity of public health laboratories in Seychelles and Sierra Leone. In 2014, Public Health England formally committed to providing both funding and technical expertise. In Sierra Leone, Public Health England assisted with drafting a national public health strategy and improving laboratory systems