Designing integrated health services: health professionals from Kazakhstan visit two pioneer regions in Europe


Visit at Regional Hospital dell’Angelo in Mestre (Venice), Italy

Kazakhstan has a dedicated centre leading efforts to develop eHealth, including linking more than 20 databases into a single operational platform. Twelve health policy-makers from Kazakhstan visited the pioneer regions of Veneto (Italy) and Catalonia (Spain) to learn about the potential of using individual and population-wide databases to design integrated health services.

The visit was a hands-on learning opportunity to share experiences with pioneers from Italy and Spain in introducing reforms in their countries. The policy-makers visited a range of settings and spoke with all levels of actors, from regional authorities to health-care providers at the frontline. The policy-makers discussed the challenges and opportunities related to introducing new health information systems that can be used to organize services around population needs and scaling up reforms to the national level while still meeting region-specific needs. The policy-makers had a chance to see and to learn the best integrated primary health care practices and innovative reforms and approaches for population-based integrated health services delivery, to build links between primary health care and referral hospitals and to efficiently organize the services delivery at the regional hospital level, including acute care and a triage system.

The study visit took place on 3–7 July 2017 as a result of a joint effort between the WHO Country Office in Kazakhstan and three WHO centres of excellence – the WHO European Centre for Primary Health Care in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the WHO Barcelona Office for Health Systems Strengthening in Barcelona, Spain and the WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development in Venice, Italy – in addition to the Veneto Region and the Catalan regional health authorities. The delegation from Kazakhstan included representatives of the health departments of the Kyzylorda and Mangystau Oblasts (regions), chief physicians from district health facilities and officials of the Ministry of Health.

The participants had opportunities to visit primary health care centres, regional hospitals and regional officials responsible for population-based and individual health services delivery and health information systems. The hosts presented their best practices in primary health care and, very importantly, innovative tools for integrating it with hospital care and social care, community health strategies, tools for managing population health and how pooling data can orient health planning.

Facilitated group discussions and direct interaction with regional actors from other countries – health managers, health policy-makers and health providers – proved to be an excellent way to optimize learning experience and provided the health policy-makers from Kazakhstan with practical tools for identifying priorities based on actual needs and determinants of health and for planning population-based interventions.

At the end of the study visit, the participants reflected collectively on the possible adaptations needed in their home regions and prepared their individual reviews of the visit with personal impressions and lists of inspiring good practices that they can potentially implement in the Kyzylorda and Mangystau Oblasts of Kazakhstan.