JOURNAL ARTICLE

Strengthening health management: experience of district teams in The Gambia

C P Conn, P Jenkins, S O Touray
Health Policy and Planning 1996, 11 (1): 64-71
10155879
The lack of basic management skills of district-level health teams is often described as a major constraint to implementation of primary health care in developing countries. To improve district-level management in The Gambia, a 'management strengthening' project was implemented in two out of the three health regions. Against a background of health sector decentralization policy the project had two main objectives: to improve health team management skills and to improve resources management under specially-trained administrators. The project used a problem-solving and participatory strategy for planning and implementing activities. The project resulted in some improvements in the management of district-level health services, particularly in the quality of team planning and coordination, and the management of the limited available resources. However, the project demonstrated that though health teams had better management skills and systems, their effectiveness was often limited by the policy and practice of the national level government and donor agencies. In particular, they were limited by the degree to which decision making was centralized on issues of staffing, budgeting, and planning, and by the extent to which national level managers have lacked skills and motivation for management change. They were also limited by the extent to which donor-supported programmes were still based on standardized models which did not allow for varying and complex environments at district level. These are common problems despite growing advocacy for more devolution of decision making to the local level.

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