Analytical summary - General country health policies
In Malawi, the Ministry of Health is implementing public health policies that are guided by a number of documents, including the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, the Public Health Act and To the year 2020: a vision for the health sector in Malawi.
A number of health sector reforms have been initiated by the Ministry of Health with a view to improving efficiency and providing quality health services. The major policy reforms include:
- decentralization of the management of health services to local government
- hospital reform
- public–private partnerships.
Despite the availability of these policies, there are challenges related to implementation of the policy reforms. There are inadequate human, physical and financial resources to develop core capacity and strengthen existing management capacity at district and facility levels to push the decentralization process forward.
The health sector has developed the National Health Policy and is reviewing the Public Health Act of 1948. The overall goal of the National Health Policy is to improve the health status of all the people of Malawi by reducing the risk of ill health and the occurrence of premature deaths.
The National Health Policy acknowledges the inadequate resources available for the health sector hence it also defines the Essential Health Package, which will be available to all Malawians free of charge. The provision of health services has been decentralized and is the responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in accordance with the Decentralization Policy and Decentralization Act. Policies and laws are therefore available that guide the development and implementation of interventions in the health sector. Districts have since been given greater responsibility for managing health services at district and lower levels.
The Human Resource for Deployment Policy and the Human Resource Development Policy were developed to harness human resource capacity development efforts. The Malawi National Health Physical Assets Management Policy of 2002 was developed to improve the overall management of health care equipment and infrastructure. The National Health Information System Policy and Strategy of 2003 guides the development of the health information system in the country. However, most of these policies are old and need to be reviewed to take into account emerging issues.
In Malawi, the development and implementation of policies in other sectors also has an impact on the health sector. For instance, the implementation of appropriate educational policies will raise the literacy level of the population, which in turn helps them understand the health messages they receive. Improvements in water and sanitation in the country would reduce waterborne diseases associated with poor water and sanitation. The implementation of nutrition policies will have a bearing on the number of malnourished children that the health sector can manage.
The Health Sector Strategic Plan 2011–2016 has defined the Essential Health Package for priority diseases and conditions and the health sector will address these in the next 5 years.