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At this year’s World Health Assembly, health financing emerged as a pivotal issue. Often cited as the largest gap in the noncommunicable disease (NCD) response, adequate financing has become a critical topic of discussion.

The Access Accelerated side event, “Cracking the Code: Innovative Solutions to Unlock NCD Financing in LMICs,” convened leaders and experts to address the urgent need for sustainable financing for NCDs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This rare convergence of public health and finance sectors fostered a vital exchange of forward-thinking ideas and concrete solutions to help bridge the financing gap.

Dr. Elizabeth Wangia, Director of Health Financing at Kenya’s Ministry of Health, provided a critical country perspective in her dialogue with Gina Lagomarsino, CEO of Results for Development. Dr. Wangia highlighted Kenya’s ambitious health financing reforms, their potential impact on NCD prevention and control, and the importance of a locally-driven approach.

“We need NCD financing and innovation to be integrated into country priorities and plans, rather than create siloes,” Dr. Wangia stressed. “Such fragmentation becomes a challenge in showing impact as a country and supporting NCD interventions to scale.”

Expanding on Dr. Wangia’s insights, representatives from the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation outlined collaborative efforts with LMIC governments to innovate and scale financing models to address global health challenges. The World Bank highlighted its renewed partnership with Access Accelerated, as a powerful example of supporting countries to catalyze locally-focused NCD financing, through technical support, cross-country learning opportunities, and programmatic seed funding.

The discussion then opened up to all participants, revealing a key theme: bridging the NCD financing gap necessitates deeper collaboration between the global health and finance communities. And, while securing new investment is crucial, optimizing existing resource allocation is equally important.

The discussions identified several key opportunities to achieve sustainable outcomes:

  • Concrete and Locally-Driven Solutions: Transition from global-level discussions to actionable local implementation plans with a long-term perspective. Tailor financing mechanisms to each country’s context, mobilize additional resources, and optimize health system spending for maximum impact.
  • Financial Protection: National health programs should prioritize making healthcare affordable. Redesigning national insurance schemes to reduce copayments and out-of-pocket expenses are crucial steps.
  • Improved Health Systems Financing: Implement financing models, such as hybrid public-private partnerships and innovative development assistance, that attract investment, reduce government risk, and lower project costs.
  • Data Improvement and Evidence Gathering: Base financing decisions on robust local data and evidence of impacts and outcomes. Enhanced data systems can identify inefficiencies, optimize resource allocation, and clarify investment benefits.
  • Investment Readiness: Prepare health systems proactively, identify key opportunities, support local expertise development, and present compelling investment cases to potential financiers.
  • Matching Financing Tools to Challenges: Map financing tools to specific NCD-related issues. Recognize that a one-size-fits-all solution is ineffective; instead, tailor solutions to address distinct challenges.
  • A Holistic Health Systems Approach: Invest comprehensively in health systems, reorient care towards primary healthcare, integrate services, leverage innovation and digital health, and focus on health promotion and prevention.

Continued collaboration, particularly in the form of country-to-country learning, is vital to equipping LMICs with the tools and knowledge they need to implement effective NCD financing solutions. Ultimately, saving lives and improving health outcomes hinge on this collective effort.

With the momentum from the recent event, Access Accelerated now sets its sights on shaping the upcoming WHO/World Bank International Dialogue on Sustainable Financing for NCDs and Mental Health in Washington.