The India Health Systems Collaborative, in partnership with ACCESS Health International and Harvard University officially launched its certificate course on health systems assessment at a virtual inaugural event held on July 28. The keynote address was delivered by Dr Rakesh Sarwal (IAS), Additional Secretary at NITI Aayog, followed by a lecture by Prof. Winnie Yip of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The webinar was attended by nearly 200 participants from across countries, mainly from India, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, UK, and the USA.

Dr Krishna Reddy, Country Director, ACCESS Health International opened the session by speaking about the need for health systems assessment in India, followed by an introduction to the IHSC by Prof A Venkat Raman (Honorary Founding Director). This was followed by Dr Rakesh Sarwal’s keynote address where he spoke about the importance of health systems assessment from the policymakers lens, especially in the current pandemic situation. He highlighted the importance of the systems approach and capacity building in public health and of assessing the performance of health systems at operational levels so as to enable mid-course corrections.  

In the lecture by Prof Winnie Yip that followed, she stressed upon the need to conduct systematic evidence-based health system assessments for designing and implementing health reforms. She asserted that health system assessments are different from the evaluation of interventions and programs; such assessments need to take a comprehensive approach that covers the various aspects of a health system and not just indicators like mortality and morbidity. Talking about the course, Prof Yip said that her team will take the analytical approach of the Control Knob Framework developed by Harvard to study health systems. The course will cover the approach to assessing final and intermediate goals of a health system, the methods and data needed for such assessments, and illustrations of assessments from India and other countries.
The course consists of eight virtual sessions. It is organized by the IHSC with support from ACCESS Health International. The course is directed and conducted by faculty and researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In its effort to support the health systems fraternity with effective capacity-building initiatives, IHSC conducted a training needs assessment survey, which was instrumental in identifying the areas in which health systems researchers and practitioners at all levels expressed the need for knowledge and skill development. Based on the results of this survey, Health Systems Assessment, among others, emerged as a priority topic for training. This course is aimed to fill this expressed need.