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Gates Foundation grant to help Wits support SA Health Department

- Wits University

PRICELESS SA will benefit from a generous Gates Foundation grant for the International Decision Support Initiative.

A grant from the Gates Foundation for the International Decision Support Initiative (iDSI) is great news for South Africa and many other countries that are striving for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and dealing with difficult health policy choices.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded iDSI with US$12.8 million (over R205 million). Priority Cost Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening South Africa (PRICELESS SA)  – based at the University of Witwatersrand, School of Public Health  – is a core partner of iDSI, a global network of public bodies, think-tanks, and academics in priority-setting.

“For the first time, the collective experience of academics, policy makers and think tanks around the world  – who are actively involved in day-to-day priority setting in health – is being harnessed to provide targeted support and partnership to low- and middle income countries in order to generate information and establish stakeholder processes that can enhance decision making,” says Director of PRICELESS SA, Professor Karen Hofman.

She adds that this is particularly important and timely for South Africa, whose policy makers are making bold moves towards addressing health inequalities and improving quality through the implementation of UHC under a National Health Insurance (NHI) plan.

“The iDSI grant will enable us to continue to support the Ministry of Health, Treasury and other health policy makers in South Africa in setting evidence-based priorities as the country moves towards NHI.

“But more than this, through building on successful initiatives in South East Asia we aim to go beyond our borders to work with policy makers in sub-Saharan Africa, where we will share successes and lessons learned as they too move towards universal health coverage,” said Hofman.

“iDSI has the potential to be a major contributor to improved health outcomes and health equity on the African continent.”

Learning from countries such as Thailand and the UK, Hofman says, they will actively work with partners to build on the existing knowledge and skill base in the country and seek to develop capacity in areas such as decision analysis, information systems, and institutional management, including the processes of decision making, which lie at the heart of sustainable UHC.

Partners in the consortium include NICE International (UK), Health Interventions and Technology Assessment Program (Thailand), the Center for Global Development (USA) and York University Centre for Health Economics (UK).