206556 An NGO role in support of the health sector in Timor-Leste

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mary Anne Mercer, DrPH , Health Alliance International, Seattle, WA
Purpose: Global health activists understand the need to strengthen government health systems in developing countries, but much new funding focuses on non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This paper will present the case of an NGO successfully supporting the national health system of Timor-Leste.

Methods: A US-based NGO, Health Alliance International (HAI), has worked closely with the MOH in Timor-Leste since it emerged as an independent nation in 2002. A case study combined with survey results demonstrate the benefits of close NGO-MOH collaboration in improving health system capacity.

Results: HAI has supported national and district-level MOH staff in policy formulation, strategy development, support of health workers and volunteers, monitoring of progress, and evaluation of results for Timor-Leste's maternal/newborn care and child spacing programs. Basic elements of the MOH-HAI collaboration include close links with the central MOH, support of district midwives, and testing innovations. Survey results in 2008 showed impressive health gains in program districts.

Conclusions: This collaborative effort contributes to MOH goals and allows a sharing of expertise for the benefit of the country as a whole. Key factors in this collaboration are flexibility in the NGO's work plans, responsiveness by MOH leadership to innovative contributions, and regular ongoing communication between MOH and NGO staff at all levels. Genuine progress in meeting the health care needs of the global South will require that all agencies involved in promoting health have the commitment and skills to support sustainable, national-scale programs that reach entire populations.

Learning Objectives:
Explain at least three ways in which NGOs can contribute to health services strengthening in developing countries Describe three challenges for NGOs in working closely with the public health sector

Keywords: Developing Countries, Health Service

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have planned and overseen the work discussed for the past 5 years
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.