Decentralized health care priority-setting in Tanzania: evaluating against the accountability for reasonableness framework

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Stephen Maluka, Peter Kamuzora, Miguel San Sebastiån, Jens Byskov, Øystein Evjen Olsen, Elizabeth Shayo, Benedict Ndawi, Anna-Karin Hurtig

Priority-setting has become one of the biggest challenges faced by health decision-makers worldwide. Fairness is a key goal of priority-setting and Accountability for Reasonableness has emerged as a guiding framework for fair priority-setting. This paper describes the processes of setting health care priorities in Mbarali district, Tanzania, and evaluates the descriptions against Accountability for Reasonableness. Key informant interviews were conducted with district health managers, local government officials and other stakeholders using a semi-structured interview guide. Relevant documents were also gathered and group priority-setting in the district was observed. The results indicate that, while Tanzania has a decentralized public health care system, the reality of the district level priority-setting process was that it was not nearly as participatory as the official guidelines suggest it should have been. Priority-setting usually occurred in the context of budget cycles and the process was driven by historical allocation. Stakeholders' involvement in the process was minimal. Decisions (but not the reasoning behind them) were publicized through circulars and notice boards, but there were no formal mechanisms in place to ensure that this information reached the public. There were neither formal mechanisms for challenging decisions nor an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that decisions were made in a fair and equitable manner. Therefore, priority-setting in Mbarali district did not satisfy all four conditions of Accountability for Reasonableness; namely relevance, publicity, appeals and revision, and enforcement. This paper aims to make two important contributions to this problematic situation. First, it provides empirical analysis of priority-setting at the district level in the contexts of low-income countries. Second, it provides guidance to decision-makers on how to improve fairness, legitimacy, and sustainability of the priority-setting process.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Volume71
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)751-759
Number of pages9
ISSN0277-9536
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

ID: 22360701