Understanding Health Accounts: A Primer for Policymakers

Resource Type: Brief
Authors: Heather Cogswell and Tesfaye Dereje
Published: 1/31/2015

Resource Description:

As a country’s economy and population grows, so will its spending on health. Policymakers can affect public and private health spending to improve efficiency, quality, equity, and ultimately save lives. To succeed, however, governments should have the evidence around the health financing landscape. Health Accounts is a key tool to generate the evidence needed to inform health financing policy and to track whether or not policies are working as intended.

In short, Health Accounts measures the “financial pulse” of national health systems. Health Accounts encompass total health spending in a country – including public, private, household, and donor expenditures. Health Accounts also track the amount of funds and their flow from one health care actor to another, such as the distribution of funds from the Ministry of Health to each government health provider.

An update of the 2003 brief, this new primer provides an introduction to Health Accounts, the framework (System of Health Accounts 2011 or SHA 2011), and key steps involved in conducting Health Accounts exercises using SHA 2011 with particular emphasis on how policymakers can get involved to facilitate the process.  The primer also includes country experiences illustrating show how Health Accounts data can be used for policy purposes, with specific attention to the importance of institutionalizing Health Accounts so that it may serve as an ongoing resource to policymakers.

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