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General country health policies

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Public policies in the health sector, together with those in other sectors, have a huge potential to secure the health of communities.[1] They represent an important complement to universal coverage and service delivery reforms. Unfortunately, in most societies, this potential is largely untapped and failure to effectively engage other sectors is widespread. Looking ahead at the diverse range of challenges associated with the growing importance of ageing, urbanization and the social determinants of health, there is, without question, a need for a greater capacity to seize this potential. That is why a drive for better public policies forms a third pillar supporting the move towards primary health care, along with universal coverage and primary care (see figure).

Primary health care reforms necessary to refocus health systems towards health for all

The following policies must be in place:

  • Systems policies – the arrangements that are needed across health systems’ building blocks to support universal coverage and effective service delivery. These are the health systems policies (related to essential drugs, technology, quality control, human resources, accreditation, etc.) on which primary care and universal coverage reforms depend.
  • Public health policies – the specific actions needed to address priority health problems through cross-cutting prevention and health promotion. Without effective public health policies that address priority health problems, primary care and universal coverage reforms would be hindered. These encompass the technical policies and programmes that provide guidance to primary care teams on how to deal with priority health problems. They also encompass the classical public health interventions from public hygiene and disease prevention to health promotion.
  • Policies in other sectors – contributions to health that can be made through intersectoral collaboration. These policies, which are of critical concern, are known as “health in all policies”, based on the recognition that a population's health can be improved through policies that are mainly controlled by sectors other than health. The health content of school curricula, industry’s policy towards gender equality, or the safety of food and consumer goods are all issues that can profoundly influence or even determine the health of entire communities and that can cut across national boundaries. It is not possible to address such issues without intensive intersectoral collaboration that gives due weight to health in all policies.

This section of the General country health policies profile is structured as follows:


Analytical summary

The Government of Liberia's 2011 National Health Policy builds on:

The 2011 National Health Policy draws upon the knowledge gained by implementing these policies as well as from numerous sources of new data on the health status of the Liberian population. Thus, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is confident that the 2011 National Health Policy’s orientation is evidence based and reflects the best information and guidance available at the time it was developed.

The mission of the Ministry is to reform and manage the sector to effectively and efficiently deliver comprehensive, quality health and social welfare services that are equitable, accessible and sustainable for all people in Liberia.

Liberia’s vision is for a healthy population with social protection for all and the goal is to improve the health and social welfare status of the population of Liberia on an equitable basis. To ensure that the 2011 National Health Policy is implemented, subsector policies were elaborated to buttress the Policy.

The Government has embarked on an ambitious process of decentralization, with a short-term to medium-term goal of health sector deconcentration of authorities to county health and social welfare teams and a long-term goal of devolving authority over several fiscal and administrative responsibilities directly to county administration.

Guided by the National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance, the National Health and Social Welfare Policy and Plan (2011–2021), the Public Sector Reform Statement (2010) and with external technical and financial assistance, the Government is currently undertaking a number of relevant activities that will represent the skeleton of the decentralization process.

The overarching goal of the 2011 National Health Policy is for facilities and institutions to be managed effectively and efficiently and equipped with the right skills mix of qualified workers who will provide quality services that meet the highest professional and ethical standards and the sector’s needs.

In accordance with the National Health and Social Welfare Policy and Plan, the principles guiding the Human Resources for Health Policy are equity, efficiency, quality, sustainability, decentralization and partnership.

Health sector policies. Source: Government of Liberia

The Government is committed to financing health and social welfare at the highest level possible in order to maximize the resources available from all sources. The Health Financing Policy establishes a mixed approach to mobilizing resources that includes a sustainable level of Government financing, more efficient use of donor support and potential alternative financing mechanisms.

The Government will do its part by progressively increasing the share of the national budget that goes to the health and social welfare sector. The table provides a summary of available health and health-related policies.

Overview of major policy reforms

Public health policies

Health system policies

Policies in other sectors and intersectoral policies

Priorities and ways forward


Endnotes:References, sources, methods, abbreviations, etc.

  1. Systems thinking for health systems strengthening (pdf 1.54Mb). Geneva, World Health Organization, 2009