A conversation on ICT and health financing models in Bangladesh

Health financing is an area where millions in Bangladesh have a stake, yet it finds little reference in the development discourse of Bangladesh. Bringing low - or low-middle-income people under a health safety net is not only good for the overall health of the population, but is also economically beneficial in terms of productivity gain and resource management. In Bangladesh, we often see a picture where middle-class families go destitute losing their last penny to arrange treatment for family members, while low-income people leave their lives to fate or a surge of fund-raising campaigns as a last-minute ditch effort to do something for an ailing patient.

But this doesn’t solve the problem – where and how people can be supported to manage unforeseen health-care costs. That's how we came to this topic. While working, we also found out that the government’s Health Financing Strategy plans to bring the entire population under a "universal health-care coverage" (UHC) plan by 2032. Some pilot projects are being developed at Uzirpur Health Complex in Barisal, Benapole Municipal Corporation in Jessore and Kalihati Health Complex in Tangail by preparing a database of low-income people and by distributing SMART health cards to the patients.

We from Bytesforall Bangladesh have been documenting these initiatives and published our primary research in the Global Information Society Watch report 2016.

In continuation, we sat for an interview with Prof. A. K. Azad, Director General of Health Services of the Government of Bangladesh, to understand what "universal health coverage" is, how it works, whether or not we have any best practice anywhere, what the technology and human resource preparedness issues are, etc. Prof. Azad in the past has worked to develop and set up health information systems across different health-care facilities in Bangladesh and has been the key person in digitisation of government hospitals. No wonder, the interview turned into an interesting conversation on the topic. The conversation was recorded and posted here.

Bytesforall Bangladesh carried out audio-video documentation work on the issue of ICTs and health financing as part of an APC grant project.

Image: Interview with Prof. A. K. Azad, director general, Management Information System (MIS), Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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