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Healthcare researchers point policymakers the way to Universal Health Coverage in Tanzania

Studies on innovative financing mechanisms for healthcare and improvement in healthcare delivery aim to help Tanzania achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

  • Dec 06, 2023
  • Researchers shared the results of independent studies on healthcare financing and delivery in Tanzania at a symposium in Dar es Salaam
  • Successfully integrating these findings into the policymaking process will support the country in achieving Universal Health Coverage
  • The symposium intended to bridge the gap between research and policy with healthcare researchers calling for closer collaboration

When people from rural regions of mainland Tanzania sign up for health insurance, they utilize healthcare services more often and have fewer catastrophic health bills. And when public primary health facilities get funding directly from the government, they are slightly more likely to show compliance with quality standards.

These findings, derived from independent studies, were among those shared at a research symposium organized by Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) and PharmAccess, held on 5 December 2023 in Dar es Salaam.

The gathering demonstrated that following Tanzania’s enactment of the Universal Health Insurance bill, healthcare researchers have an even bigger role to play in shaping evidence-based policy, guiding innovations, and ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare for all.

“Independent research is a means to learn, improve, and, most importantly, support Tanzanian health policymakers in making informed decisions towards UHC,” said Dr Heri Marwa, country director of PharmAccess in Tanzania. “To realize this goal, research findings must be integrated into the policymaking process and this symposium was designed to bridge this crucial gap.”

Dr Heri Marwa, country director of PharmAccess in Tanzania, exchanges thoughts with Zanzibar’s health minister, Nassor Ahmed Mazrui.

Other research findings with implications for UHC included:

The elderly miss out on exemption policy. Though people older than 60 are supposed to receive healthcare without charge, they experience many challenges in receiving this benefit. These include difficulty in obtaining information about the exemption categories, insufficient medicine, and unhelpful administrators.

Planning needed for non-communicable diseases and injuries (NCDIs). Non-communicable diseases (such as cancer and hypertension) and injuries have almost doubled in severity in Tanzania over the past 25 years with over half of the people left disabled by an NCDI experiencing this before the age of 40. Given this outlook, a special commission proposed that 48 conditions – including epilepsy and sickle cell disease – be considered when planning for UHC and that 53 evidence-based and cost-effective interventions form part of it.

Community programs help diabetics and those with high blood pressure. In a pilot program in Zanzibar involving five patient groups, participants received access to group meetings, devices for self-measurements (that were remotely monitored), and prescription medicine dispensed monthly by a facility nurse. Nearly all the participants improved their blood pressure and glucose measurements over the six months studied.

More than 200 healthcare providers, government officials – including Zanzibar’s health minister, Nassor Ahmed Mazrui –, policymakers, students, and development partners attended the symposium in person, with many more following online.

Tanzania’s road to UHC aligns with the global push for healthcare for all, a Sustainable Development Goal. On 12 December, the country will join others worldwide to commemorate International Universal Healthcare Coverage Day.

Faiza Abbas, PharmAccess program manager in the Zanzibar office, share the results of a pilot program on the island that help people with diabetes and hypertension better manage their condition.