Wednesday, January 04, 2006


While learning about SEAM yesterday, I also learned a lot about its parent organization: Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

MSH has a lot going on, and I will only be able to write about a portion of what they do in this article. But I do want to give you an overview so as to help you understand how broad their scope is.

According to their Mission Statement, MSH "works collaboratively with health care policymakers, managers, providers, and consumers to help close the gap between what is known about public health problems and what is done to solve them." In order to accomplish this, they seek to "increase the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of health services by improving management systems, promoting access to services, and influencing public policy."

As I said earlier MSH has a very broad scope. However, their activities are designed to focus on:

Education -
educating health care managers, providers, and consumers through technical assistance, training, publications, electronic media, and conferences;

Management -
applying practical management skills to public health problems in the public and private sector;

Development -
strengthening the technical, management, and leadership capabilities of individuals and institutions through collaborative work and training programs;

Innovation -
applying and replicating innovations in health management.

MSH lauds its staff, which it says is committed to technical excellence, integrity, and dedication. And their work with colleagues and institutions is based upon mutual respect and shared goals.

Organized around three centers MSH provides technical assistance in:

Health System & Services - geared towards population and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, child survival, infectious and chronic diseases;

Leadership and Management - which looks to foster leadership development, strategic planning, operational planning and budgeting, human resources, quality improvement, and information systems; and

Pharmaceutical Management - (of which SEAM is one of their projects) where they work to provide access to essential medicines and other health care products and selection and the procurement, distribution, and use of essential medicines.

While these areas overlap, that overlap also allows them to draw upon each other to provide professional and comprehensive assistance and more effectively meets the diverse needs of government agencies and other organizations.

Because of the limited time and space I have for this article, I will focus today only on the work that MSH is doing in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Hopefully I will be able to return to MSH in the near future and write about its other work.

MSH has a very telling statement on their web site when they state that "Financial management is the Achilles heel for rapidly scaling up civil society's role in mitigating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, especially when the donor community is caught between the "rock" of getting the money out there and the 'hard place' of timely and accurate financial reporting to keep the funds flowing."

Innovative agreements and management mechanisms are needed to get the money out into the community where it can do the most good. And that has created a challenge for many NGOs working in this area. The necessary transparent reporting has often put a heavy administrative burden on both the donor and the recipient of the funds. This places a double responsibility upon NGOs to ensure that the monies not only go where they are intended, but also that they get there as quickly as possible. And when add to this administrative task the difficulty of meeting often complicated programmatic demands it can drive NGO workers to distraction.

MSH comes to the aid of NGOs by working with program managers to help them improve their financial planning and accounting so as to maximize the return on their donors, investments.

By helping organizations "secure funding and make informed long-term financial decisions by building sound financial systems into their business models, using proven tools to diagnose and resolve financial issues" MSH provides an invaluable service to groups that must maintain fiscal responsibility in order to maintain credibility.

MSH has also recently published a paper titled: " Expediting the Transfer of Funds for HIV/AIDS Services
," which can be a very useful tool to managers occupied with the financial side of NGOs. They offer this paper as an aid for "finding approaches that balance the need for accountability with the imperative for keeping funds flowing through the pipeline."

MSH believes that by supporting frontline providers throughout the developing world, we have the power to improve the lives of people impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Implementation is now the problem that has to be tackled in order to maximize the effectiveness of the global fight against AIDS. The lack of infrastructure needs to be addressed in those countries struggling with AIDS; and people, medicines, money, information, and systems for delivering health care services need to be managed better.

MSH states that: "We know what needs to be done to support people affected by HIV/AIDS. The primary challenge remains-rapidly expanding access to critical programs and services while building capacity for the long term."

MSH speaks from experience because it has over 30 years of health program management experience. And has gained this experience in over 140 countries. During its existence, it has collaborated with global, regional, national, and local initiatives to advance the management systems that improve and sustain effective HIV/AIDS programs. It has also contributed operational expertise and state-of-the art technical competence to AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs.

Inspired by the example of Dr. Noboru Iwamura, a Japanese doctor who began working in Nepal in 1962, MSH was founded in 1971 to promote health and development in rural communities. A survivor of the atomic blast in Hiroshima, Dr. Iwamura (who was then a student) was the only survivor in his class and decided to dedicate his working life to promoting health in less advantaged nations.

Mutual respect, community participation, and providing the best of public health service were the principles of Dr. Iwamura's work. And this motivated Dr. Ronald O'Connor in 1971 to create MSH as a nonprofit educational and scientific organization to support public health decision makers in developing countries in order to "realize the spirit he saw in Iwamura: to provide technical assistance in public health management for developing countries."

Very quickly, one example of the workof MSH can be found in Uganda where MSH assisted the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) to "develop an efficient grant-making process and improved reporting structure for Ugandan NGOs receiving HIV/AIDS grants." Currently, the IRCU has distributed $2.1 million from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to 70 faith-based organizations in Uganda. These funds have made possible care and support for approximately 7,900 orphans and vulnerable children and 33,500 people living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the IRCU has trained 32,700 health care providers and community members in HIV/AIDS-related services.

"Bean Counting" may not seem like very exciting stuff, but when it makes it possible for NGOs to save lives and alleviate suffering, it is very easy to see why the work of Management Sciences for Health is so important.

There is so much more to Management Sciences for Health and if you don't want to wait for me to get around to writing another article about them, please, visit their web site.

Management Sciences for Health

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