This commentary by Victorian Order of Nurses Canada, written in response to "Getting What We Pay For? The Value-for-Money Challenge," by McGrail, Zierler and Ip, answers four key questions about Canada's home and community care sector: (1) What are our objectives? (2) Where do we achieve good value now? (3) Where and why are we failing? and (4) What will help us do better? We conclude that although the home and community care sector offers great promise in meeting the evolving health and social needs of Canadians, it is not living up to its potential. We propose the development of a national, integrated approach to home and community care to help Canadians remain healthy and independent in their homes. This would represent a wise financial investment for governments and would contribute to the long-term health of Canadians.
Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) represent almost half the world's population, and all five national governments recently committed to work nationally, regionally, and globally to ensure that universal health coverage (UHC) is achieved. This analysis reviews national efforts to achieve UHC. With a broad range of health indicators, life expectancy (ranging from 53 years to 73 years), and mortality rate in children younger than 5 years (ranging from 10·3 to 44·6 deaths per 1000 livebirths), a review of progress in each of the BRICS countries shows that each has some way to go before achieving UHC. The BRICS countries show substantial, and often similar, challenges in moving towards UHC. On the basis of a review of each country, the most pressing problems are: raising insufficient public spending; stewarding mixed private and public health systems; ensuring equity; meeting the demands for more human resources; managing changing demographics and disease burdens; and addressing the social determinants of health. Increases in public funding can be used to show how BRICS health ministries could accelerate progress to achieve UHC. Although all the BRICS countries have devoted increased resources to health, the biggest increase has been in China, which was probably facilitated by China's rapid economic growth. However, the BRICS country with the second highest economic growth, India, has had the least improvement in public funding for health. Future research to understand such different levels of prioritisation of the health sector in these countries could be useful. Similarly, the role of strategic purchasing in working with powerful private sectors, the effect of federal structures, and the implications of investment in primary health care as a foundation for UHC could be explored. These issues could serve as the basis on which BRICS countries focus their efforts to share ideas and strategies.
Despite the inclusion of equity in the design of many health care systems, pragmatic tools for considering equity systematically, alongside the efficiency categories of cost-effectiveness in health technology assessment (HTA), remain underdeveloped. This article develops a framework to help decision makers supplement the standard efficiency criteria of HTA and avoid building inequities, explicit or implicit, into their methods. The framework is intended as a first step toward creating a checklist for alerting decision makers to a wide range of equity considerations for HTA. This framework is intended be used as part of the process through which advisory bodies receive their terms of reference; scope the agenda prior to the selection of a candidate intervention and its comparators for HTA; prepare background briefing for decision makers; and help to structure the discussion and composition of professional and lay advisory groups during the assessment process. The framework is offered as only a beginning of an ongoing process of deliberation and consultation, through which the matters covered can be expected to become more comprehensive and the record of past decisions and their contexts in any jurisdiction adopting the tool can serve to guide subsequent evidence gathering and decisions. In these ways, it may be hoped that equity will be more systematically and fully considered and implemented in both the procedures and decisions of HTA.
In summary, the Canadian health system is an outstanding success, as far as its consumers are concerned. Increasing costs are generally considered to be grounded in factors that could be, and are being, remedied. Health insurance also works very well for that segment of the mental health system that requires intervention by psychiatrists in office or general hospital practice. Unfortunately, certain decisions that were made during the development of the health insurance system have created obstacles to the provision of adequate services to the chronically mentally ill. However, these systemic ailments, which are now being addressed in most provinces, do not seem to have been fatal.
The Russian Federation has the eleventh highest tuberculosis burden in the world in terms of the total estimated number of new cases that occur each year. In 2003, 26% of the population was covered by the internationally recommended control strategy known as directly observed treatment (DOT) compared to an overall average of 61% among the 22 countries with the highest burden of tuberculosis. The Director-General of WHO has identified two necessary starting points for the scaling-up of interventions to control emerging infectious diseases. These are a comprehensive engagement with the health system and a strengthening of the health system. The success of programmes aimed at controlling infectious diseases is often determined by constraints posed by the health system. We analyse and evaluate the impact of the arrangements for delivering tuberculosis services in the Russian Federation, drawing on detailed analyses of barriers and incentives created by the organizational structures, and financing and provider-payment systems. We demonstrate that the systems offer few incentives to improve the efficiency of services or the effectiveness of tuberculosis control. Instead, the system encourages prolonged supervision through specialized outpatient departments in hospitals (known as dispensaries), multiple admissions to hospital and lengthy hospitalization. The implementation, and expansion and sustainability of WHO-approved methods of tuberculosis control in the Russian Federation are unlikely to be realized under the prevailing system of service delivery. This is because implementation does not take into account the wider context of the health system. In order for the control programme to be sustainable, the health system will need to be changed to enable services to be reconfigured so that incentives are created to reward improvements in efficiency and outcomes.