Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
Women in the Kolda region of Senegal made history in the summer of 2011 when they launched the area’s first-ever mutual health organization (MHO)— a community-based health insurance system that helps to remove barriers to getting health care and reduces the financial burden of people suffering from an unexpected illness.
It’s all part of reform efforts in Senegal that help grassroots community groups take control of their own health care. Traditionally, rural communes and urban municipalities had little say in health district operational plans, which form the basis of Senegal’s annual health budget. The USAID-funded PHRplus Project, led by Abt Associates, has worked to change this.
For over 15 years, Abt has worked in Senegal with more than 60 groups to expand community-based health insurance through locally run organizations that pool small annual fees and act as insurers to cover benefits such as maternal and reproductive health services. At the local level, Abt helped groups to negotiate with health facilities and provided administrative training, helping them set prices and conditions for the insurance and promoting membership in the MHOs.
Women in Senegal have played an important leadership role in creating these organizations, which have significantly increased access to care. Abt helped to facilitate a series of meetings among stakeholders in Kolda and helped garner support among the women’s organizations to create the MHO and form new contractual relationships with health providers to improve quality. From there, a committee of 32 women leaders came together and received Abt-led training on how to implement the MHOs. In July, 316 people – primarily women – helped to rally the community, regional authorities and local government units to support the new MHO.
“The women in Kolda are a wonderful example of how community groups can come together on a local level to address health problems and create long-lasting improvements in Senegal’s health system,” said Jeffrey Barnes, principal associate at Abt.
To build local capacity to develop health plans in other areas of Senegal, a reference guide on creating operational health plans also was developed. Abt will continue its work with the government in Senegal to create policy and funding support that can improve management of the insurance schemes, mobilize funding to expand coverage of services and attract a larger number of people into the schemes to improve their financial stability.
“These mutual health organizations have helped make a real difference for many people in Senegal,” said Barnes. “Even in a health system with a significant public subsidy, user fees can be a barrier to health care for many people. Participating in the mutual health organizations ensures that these costs are covered when they most need it.”
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.