Effective communications and stakeholder engagement are critical to universal health coverage (UHC) reform efforts – a challenge that has been repeatedly cited by the policymakers and practitioners from JLN’s (Joint Learning Network) member countries. Even when strong technical designs for policy initiatives exist, consistent and systematic inclusive communications and feedback loops are needed to share change management strategies with all the relevant stakeholders, including political leaders, payors, providers, patients, and civil society.
In response, USAID’s Health Financing and Governance Project (HFG) has partnered with the JLN to bring together nine countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, and Sudan) in a learning exchange to jointly produce knowledge on the how-to’s of stakeholder communications for UHC. Through a series of virtual and in-person sessions, country participants will review relevant theory and literature, discuss experiences developing and implementing communications strategies, and address key communications challenges to move reform processes forward.
The country participants gathered for the first virtual learning exchange on Stakeholder Communications for UHC in April 2017. As the country members exchanged a brief overview of their challenges in strategic communications for UHC, several key themes emerged across the board. Political buy-in and support, public perception, public mobilization and consensus building across public and private sector actors were cited as consistent barriers to the success of their communication efforts for health policy reform. The participating countries also learned about the basics of strategic communications, including principles, practical approaches, stakeholder analysis tools and techniques and channels.
The HFG and JLN team continues to work closely with the participating country members to iteratively co-develop a practical guide that countries can adapt and implement in their contexts. An in-person workshop is scheduled in July 2017 to maximize interactions and collaborative learning.
Stakeholder communications enable all actors to understand their rights, responsibilities, and opportunities to maximize the benefits of UHC. The new learning initiative aims to help countries bridge communications gaps and reinforce UHC reform objectives.