Policy forum examines strengthening health financing in Turkey

A policy forum in Ankara, Turkey, on 22 February 2017, explored ways to strengthen health financing towards the promotion of the country’s health system goals.

The forum provided an opportunity to reflect on questions related to:

  • health financing arrangements from the provider perspective
  • strengthening strategic purchasing and pooling of funds
  • getting more health for the money: efficiency and sustainability of resource allocation
  • implementation and transformation.

Participants at the forum included experts from the Ministry of Health of Turkey, the Social Security Institution of Turkey, WHO, the World Bank, McKinsey and Company, and international public finance and governance experts.

“This was a fascinating policy dialogue with some of the world’s best experts on health financing in an open dialogue with the minister and colleagues. As always, we were greatly impressed by the commitment of Minister Akdag, his leadership skills and the clever and open way in which he navigated discussing complex institutional issues in Turkey’s health system,” commented Hans Kluge, Director of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at WHO/Europe.

Deliberations at the forum will contribute to the development of the second phase of Turkey’s successful Health Transformation Programme to further strengthen the country’s health system.

Melitta Jakab, Senior Health Economist in the Division of Health Systems and Public Health noted, “The policy dialogue is useful for Turkey in the context of emerging health policy problems such as increased mortality from noncommunicable diseases, the challenge of sustaining financial protection at the time of slowing of the economy, and improving quality and efficiency of service delivery. The next strategic plan will require adjustments in current health financing arrangements, in particular to develop and strengthen a strategic purchasing function”.

“This event was very timely for Turkey to provide input into its next Health Sector Strategic Plan. Thanks to its Health Transformation Programme, Turkey is a leading example in moving towards universal health coverage. The challenge now is to maintain this leadership role and move forward to address emerging problems,” added Dr Pavel Ursu, WHO Representative in Turkey.

The Ministry of Health, Turkey, organized several policy labs between November 2016 and February 2017 to discuss health system strengths and weaknesses and to identify the way forward for the second phase of the Programme. These policy labs have focused on healthy living, primary health care, secondary and tertiary care, emergency care, and medicines and medical devices. Some aspects of health financing and governance have been discussed in each of these policy labs, but there had not been a comprehensive cross-cutting discussion on health financing.

To enhance the process, WHO/Europe offered to organize the policy forum to discuss health financing and related governance issues in a comprehensive manner.

The first phase of Turkey’s Health Transformation Programme has had a significant impact on health outcomes, particularly in the areas of maternal and child health and access to care. Reforms in health financing played a major role in achieving results.