Supporting Azerbaijan in transforming its health system
Dr Hande Harmanci, WHO/Europe
WHO has been supporting Azerbaijan in improving access to health services and strengthening its primary health care since the beginning of 2019.
“Azerbaijan is taking bold steps to strengthen its health system, especially primary health care, and W-HO is proud to assist by making its expertise available to the country,” commented Dr Hande Harmanci, WHO Representative and Head of the Country Office in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan has been working to improve the quality of health services and decrease out-of-pocket spending on health for the past 3 years. In this context, it established the State Agency for Mandatory Health Insurance in 2016 to provide the population with better financial protection.
The Agency has implemented pilot projects in 3 regions which show positive results – better access to health services, greater productivity and higher levels of satisfaction among both service users and health-care professionals.
WHO is providing evidence-based guidance and technical expertise, opportunities for direct observation and experience for national technical experts, and technical assessments to provide recommendations for improvements.
From 29 July to 1 August 2019, WHO organized a 4-day expert review in Baku to assess the readiness for implementation of the mandatory health insurance and to support the design of a forward-looking model of primary health care. The expertise of the group spanned health policy, health systems management, health financing and planning, public health, primary health-care management, human resources for health, medical education and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
During the 4-days, the experts had the opportunity to visit hospitals and family health-care centres in Mingachevir and Agdash, 2 of the pilot areas of the mandatory health insurance scheme.
“This assessment was a great opportunity to observe the new system in action and provide our recommendations to contribute to a successful roll out. A strong health-care system is a cornerstone of sustainable development, and the key to building the prosperous future we all want and deserve,” Dr Harmanci concluded.
Azerbaijan, like many European countries, is experiencing emerging health issues related to NCDs. The mortality rate for NCDs among the population aged 30–70 years is 22% in Azerbaijan. Most deaths are due to diabetes, hypertension, obesity and smoking-related illnesses. One of the most important steps in preventing these diseases and reducing mortality is therefore strengthening primary health care.
Primary health care is the first point of contact with the health system for most people, and a great majority of illnesses can be detected and treated at this level. It can meet more than 70% of people’s health needs throughout their lifetime, from health promotion and disease prevention to the treatment and management of long-term health conditions. It is one of the smartest ways to deliver health for all.