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Keywords:

  • policy;
  • indicators;
  • developing countries;
  • evidence;
  • performance

Abstract

Most developing countries have embarked on one form or another of ‘health sector reform’ as a result of the global trend for health and health care reform that has emerged during the past decade. One consequence is that the issue of health sector performance is moving higher on the agenda of many developing countries, and particularly that of the corporate performance of health sector staff. Along with this movement has come increased attention to strengthening evidence-based management decision-making. To date, studies on measuring health sector performance, have had little impact on developing country health systems and have been limited to explorations primarily at an operational level. However, there is a growing recognition that there is a need to strengthen the policy function of ministries and their ability to monitor policy impact.

Sri Lanka is one country that has identified the need to strengthen policy at national level. Many developing countries, like Sri Lanka, are familiar with input, process and output dimensions of operational performance. However, most are not ready to engage in routine performance assessment that can strengthen policy processes at national level. This paper explores (1) the implication and the use of indicators to support evidence based policy decision-making, and (2) the complexity of doing so in Ministries of Health that are undergoing some form of health sector reform.

The paper emphasizes that new forms of organizational support are required for performance management at policy level. A conceptual framework for managing the collection and use of performance evidence is developed, including proposals for the introduction of outcome indicators into that process. The paper concludes with recommendations on initiatives required to develop appropriate organizational and technical capacity to engage with performance management at policy level and for further research towards creating ministries of health as ‘learning organizations’ that can change and adapt with informed decisions. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.