Sood presented on the importance of prioritizing quality care, rather than just access, in the universal healthcare coverage movement.
In the past year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS); the Lancet Commission; and the World Bank, OECD and World Health Organization published major reports on improving quality of healthcare. All reports highlight the enormous costs of poor quality care in low and middle income countries and stress that the universal healthcare coverage (UHC) movement will be unsuccessful without major improvements in quality of care.
The African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) organized a meeting on March 12, at the African Union headquarters in Addis Abba Ethiopia, focused on these three major reports with representatives from over 50 African countries. The meeting discussed key recommendations from each report, and highlighted case studies and best practices for several African nations. The goal of the meeting was translating policy into action, allowing for experts to discuss their experiences with healthcare quality and tangible steps to leverage quality of care improvement for combating infectious diseases.
Neeraj Sood, a professor at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics and the Price School of Public Policy, was a member of the international consensus committee that produced the NAS report which found that between 5.7 and 8.4 million deaths occur each year from poor quality of care in low- and middle- income countries. This NAS report was the basis of one of two presentations Sood was invited to make at the conference.
“Many of these countries are working to expand access to care through universal coverage and other measures,” said Sood. “But access without quality doesn’t mean anything.”
He noted that the report found 15 percent of deaths in low to middle income countries are the result of poor-quality care. These patients had access to care, but they still died due to preventable causes.
The focus of his second presentation was embedding quality in UHC. Momentum in UHC presents an important opportunity to improve quality of care because the entire system is touched by these reform efforts.
“When policymakers and stakeholders are working towards universal coverage, it is critical to recognize the importance of quality in these discussions,” explained Sood. “Many people associate quality with higher costs, but access without high quality care standards also produces wasteful spending. And low income countries can’t afford to waste money.”
Over the two-day conference representatives from different countries throughout Africa presented case studies showing examples of interventions and quality improvements. These ranged from implementing surgical checklists to creating public health immunization campaigns to improve take-up rates.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room for improving quality. I am optimistic that this enthusiasm will translate into real changes on the ground, saving lives and building momentum for universal quality care,” said Sood.