Bulletin of the World Health Organization

An evidence-based approach to benchmarking the fairness of health-sector reform in developing countries

Norman Daniels, Walter Flores, Supasit Pannarunothai, Peter N. Ndumbe, John H. Bryant, T.J. Ngulube, & Yuankun Wang

ABSTRACT

The Benchmarks of Fairness instrument is an evidence-based policy tool developed in generic form in 2000 for evaluating the effects of health-system reforms on equity, efficiency and accountability. By integrating measures of these effects on the central goal of fairness, the approach fills a gap that has hampered reform efforts for more than two decades. Over the past three years, projects in developing countries on three continents have adapted the generic version of these benchmarks for use at both national and subnational levels. Interdisciplinary teams of managers, providers, academics and advocates agree on the relevant criteria for assessing components of fairness and, depending on which aspects of reform they wish to evaluate, select appropriate indicators that rely on accessible information; they also agree on scoring rules for evaluating the diverse changes in the indicators.

In contrast to a comprehensive index that aggregates all measured changes into a single evaluation or rank, the pattern of changes revealed by the benchmarks is used to inform policy deliberation about which aspects of the reforms have been successfully implemented, and it also allows for improvements to be made in the reforms. This approach permits useful evidence about reform to be gathered in settings where existing information is underused and where there is a weak information infrastructure.

Brief descriptions of early results from Cameroon, Ecuador, Guatemala, Thailand and Zambia demonstrate that the method can produce results that are useful for policy and reveal the variety of purposes to which the approach can be put. Collaboration across sites can yield a catalogue of indicators that will facilitate further work.

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