Julius Mugwagwa reports on the DSA conference of 7th-8th September 2015

5 November 2015

The three presentations at the recent Development Studies Association conference collectively argued that partnerships of different forms and sizes have been sources of institutional innovations and collateral capacities that have wide ranging impacts on developing country health systems.

Bringing together findings from research projects on the role that pharmaceutical industrial associations play in development and diffusion of health innovations in India and South Africa; on innovations in health spending in South Africa and Zimbabwe; and on co-evolution of the medical device and pharmaceutical/medicines subsectors in low and middle income countries – Julius Mugwagwa, Theo Papaioannou, Andrew Mkwashi, Andrew Watkins and Dinar Kale argued that as health needs of people across the world become even multifaceted and dynamic, in the backdrop of shrinking global and national resources for health, the need for inclusive, agile and innovative partnerships in health delivery is even more apparent.

Stakeholders, regulations and financial resources are important shapers of partnerships, in addition to being targets for change or improvement by the partnerships. Yet the reality confirmed by our research is that most multi-scalar and multi-stakeholder partnerships in health delivery have not resolved the problems of allocative and technical inefficiencies in resource distribution; levelling up of the uneven progress with regulation of the medical equipment and medicines subsectors; nor ensuring inclusion of peripheral (often controversial) yet key stakeholders in health delivery such as pharmaceutical industry associations or other trade associations at large, and civil society. Various forms of exclusion and instability are already entrenched in some of the partnerships, posing practical, conceptual and theoretical challenges on how these will be resolved, and whether or not they can serve as new loci of policy and practice towards inclusive and sustainable partnerships for health delivery.