September 17, 2012

Ethiopia Sets an Example on Strengthening Primary Health Care Efforts

Erika Linnander,
Director, Field Programs, GHLI

In 2004, the Federal Ministry of Health in Ethiopia (FMOH) established the Health Extension Program (HEP) to improve access to sanitation, vaccinations, family planning programs, and pre- and post-natal care services across a diverse country of over 84 million people.

HEP has been a great success, but based on similar programs in other countries, a high profile start-up is often followed by a gradual decline in effectiveness and efficiency. Additionally, the benefits of the HEP have not been felt uniformly across Ethiopia, and there is room for improvement.

The FMOH is setting an admirable example on how to maintain the enthusiasm for such programs, by acting early to create a long-term development strategy for primary care that builds on the initial successes of the HEP. Together, with our colleagues at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, the GHLI brought together policymakers and practitioners from around the world to share their experiences and with a delegation of Ethiopian policymakers as they develop their strategy. You can read more about this meeting here.

At GHLI, we apply problem solving methods and research on the science of scale-up to inform the FMOH’s long-term strategy for primary care, working closely with Ethiopian policymakers to ensure alignment with the country’s broader development plans. Our hope is that this long-term strategy will result in a model for primary health care that is flexible to meet the needs of Ethiopia’s urban, agrarian, and pastoralist communities; robust to withstand the country’s transition from low- to middle-income status; and effective to ensure continued health gains for more than 80 million Ethiopians.

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