Q&As: Health systems

Q: What is a health system?

A health system is the sum total of all the organizations, institutions and resources whose primary purpose is to improve health. A health system needs staff, funds, information, supplies, transport, communications and overall guidance and direction. And it needs to provide services that are responsive and financially fair, while treating people decently.

Q: Is there a single best system of health insurance?

A: Health insurance is only one way people can get coverage for medical care. Governments that want to make sure all their people have access to health services provide social health protection – a system of affordable insurance or a government-funded programme that allows them to access essential health services without risking impoverishment or severe financial hardship.

Q: Do most countries have enough health workers?

A: Fifty-seven countries, most of them in Africa and Asia, face severe health workforce shortages. WHO estimates that at least 2 360 000 health service providers and 1 890 000 management and support workers, or a total of 4 250 000 health workers, are needed to fill the gap.