Strong Ministries for Strong Health Systems: An overview of the study report: Supporting Ministerial Health Leadership: A Strategy for Health Systems Strengthening

Jo Ivey
Date of Publication: 
January 2010

About the Overview
This overview is adapted from the report Supporting Ministerial Health Leadership: A Strategy for Health Systems Strengthening by Dr. Francis Omaswa, executive director and founder of The African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) and Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, president of The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM).
The study and report were commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation to explore the feasibility of establishing a support mechanism for ministers and ministries of health especially in the poorest countries, as part of the Foundation’s Transforming Health Systems initiative, The study was initially designed to assess the potential value of three proposed programs to strengthen the leadership capabilities of ministers of health:
• a global executive leadership program for new ministers;
• an ongoing, regional, in-person and virtual leadership support program for sitting ministers; and
• a virtual global resource center for ministers and high level ministerial officials providing real-time access to information.
During the course of the study, it became clear that it was essential to expand the inquiry to better understand the challenges and needs of ministries as a whole, as they and their ministers provide the stewardship function for country health systems.
The content of the report was derived from six major activities:
• a comprehensive literature review of the theory and practice of effective leadership development and organizational
capacity building, and an environmental scan to identify any existing or planned leadership development programs for ministers of health or any that have occurred in the recent past globally;
• a survey of the turnover of ministers of health;
• targeted interviews with ministers, former ministers, and key stakeholders who interact with them, conducted between October 2008 and September 2009, to better understand the roles of ministers and ministries, the challenges they face, resources at their disposal, and their thoughts on what additional resources might enhance their personal effectiveness and that of their ministries;
• a consultative meeting of experts and stakeholders held in Bellagio, Italy part way through the project;
• Participation of the project leaders (Omaswa and Boufford) in relevant global and regional meetings, as well as individual
meetings about the project with critical leaders in international and donor organizations and potential champions of this effort; and
• a consultation with African regional health leaders to discuss the fnal report, held in Kampala, Uganda.
To assure candid responses and confdentiality, minister and stakeholder comments presented throughout this overview are paraphrased and not attributed by name.
Many of the resources referred to throughout this overview are available on the internet, and a list of website addresses is provided in appendix 1.
The key fndings and recommendations from the full report are provided in this overview. The full report, including six associated data appendixes, is available online at, or by contacting NYAM in the US (phone: (212) 822-7201, web: or ACHEST in Uganda (phone: +256 414 237225, email:

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