From Global to Local: strengthening district health systems management as entry point to achieve health-related sustainable development goals
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Thailand has performed admirably in its health reform over the last few decades. Healthcare is provided at a relatively low cost and healthcare needs have transitioned to begin to address diseases and mortality of developed countries. The challenges now faced by Thailand are similar to most developed countries reflecting adult mortality and risk factors of an uppermiddle income population and the need to modify institutional structures to reflect these changing circumstances.
The approach to these challenges has focused on the ‘implementation of knowledge based health development’ and critically identifies ‘the triangle that moves the mountain’ (health reform) as a movement that mobilises; the creation of relevant knowledge, social movement and political involvement’ to address ‘inter-connected, complex and extremely difficult to solve’ problems. The move to District Health Systems as the access point to healthcare and the service delivery structure demands competent qualified leadership and management. It requires an understanding of the differences in managing professionally dominated complex adaptive systems compared to traditional approaches of managing within bureaucratic structures.
This can be best described as managing connected, integrated care focused both on individuals as patients and communities with a strong emphasis on primary healthcare, prevention and evidence-based practice. It also requires an understanding of how distributed networks of practice (DNOP) provide the potential for researchers, practitioners and other agencies and communities to collaborate, learn and improve healthcare across geographic, jurisdictional and organisational boundaries.
This approach provides recognition of the need to build the capacity and capability of health professionals in the management and leadership of health systems and Thailand is moving towards this goal in implementing specific health systems management curriculum which focuses on action-based research and learning together at the District health level augurs well for continued ability to address current health challenges and to achieve SDGs.
Abbreviations: DHS – District Health System; DNOP – Distributed Networks of Practice; HSRI – Health Systems Research Institute; MoPH – Ministry of Public Health; NHSO – National Health Security Office; SDG – Strategic Development Goal; UHC – Universal Health Coverage.