Health financing priorities in the time of Covid-19?

Published on 25 September 2020

​​​​​​​This learning session, held on the 12th October, was designed to meet the needs of health advisers, the wider health network and those from other cadres with an interest in health. It was delivered as part of the K4D Learning Journey on Health Systems Strengthening, which aims to support FCDO’s (formerly DFID’s) understanding, capacity and influence in strengthening health systems to improve the health and well-being amongst the poorest and marginalised in low- and middle-income countries. This session involved a combination of content delivery with trainee participation and interaction.​​​​

Why this session now?

COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in health systems across the world, and the economic effects are soon expected to play out in a revenue crunch for public finances, adding a fiscal crisis to a public health crisis. Faced with such challenges, policy makers and funding agencies need to consider and confront a number of issues discussed in this session, including:

  • What principles should guide decisions on priorities for health spending?
  • How will service delivery models & related financing need to change to meet current challenges?
  • How can greater efficiency and sustainability across the health system be achieved at the same time as meeting increasing demand and lower revenues?
  • Are countries adequately funding the core (fundamentals) of public health, critical for a resilient health system? What role is there for external financing?

​​​​Learning objectives

  1. To bring clarity to key principles and concepts in health financing during COVID, financial crisis, and in fragile settings
  2. To increase awareness of the key priorities for health financing priorities during COVID
  3. Attendees should, following the session, be more comfortable engaging in health financing dialogue with key stakeholders

Supporting Resources


Assessing country progress in health financing for UHC: Health Financing Progress Matrix
WHO | 2020 | Tool

Financing for Universal Health Coverage: Dos and Don’ts
WHO | Health Financing Guidance Note No.9 | 2019

Health systems governance and financing & COVID-9
WHO | A series of resources to provide comprehensive guidance to countries on the types of actions and adjustments needed to support the response to COVID-19


Health Financing Policy for universal health coverage (UHC)
WHO | e-Learning Course

Diagnostics, guides and general health financing principles and resources

Global Spending on Health: A World in Transition
Ke Xu, Agnes Soucat, Joseph Kutzin et al. | WHO | 2019 | Working Paper

Health financing country diagnostic: a foundation for national strategy development
Diane McIntyre, Joseph Kutzin | WHO | 2016 | Health Financing Guidance No.1

Developing a national health financing strategy: a reference guide
Joseph Kutzin, Sophie Witter, Matthew Jowett & Dorjsuren Bayarsaikhan | WHO | 2017 | Health Financing Guidance No.3

​​​​​​​Financing common goods for health (Health Systems and Reforms Special Issue)
Special WHO Issue of Health Systems & Reform | 2019

From silos to sustainability: transition through a UHC lens
Joseph Kutzin, Susan Sparkes, Agnès Soucat, Helene Barroy | The Lancet | 2018 | Correspondence

Pooling financial resources for universal health coverage: options for reform
Inke Mathauer, Lluis Vinyals Torres, Joseph Kutzin, Melitta Jakab & Kara Hanson | Bull World Health Organ | 2019 | Policy & practice

Voluntary health insurance: potentials and limits in moving towards UHC
Inke Mathauer, Joseph Kutzin | WHO | 2018 | Health Financing Policy Brief No.5

Purchasing health services for universal health coverage: how to make it more strategic?
Inke Mathauer, Elina Dale, Matthew Jowett, Joe Kuzin | WHO | 2019 | Health Financing Policy Brief No. 6

Analytical guide to assess a mixed provider payment system
Inke Mathauer, Fahdi Dkhimi | WHO | 2019 | Health Financing Guidance No.5

The private sector and universal health coverage
David Clarke, Shana Doerr, Mostafa Hunter, Gerard Schmets, Agnès Soucat & Aurelie Paviza | Bull WHO | 2019 | Perspective

Fiscal space

Can Low- and Middle-Income Countries Increase Domestic Fiscal Space for Health: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Assess Possible Sources of Expansion
Helene Barroy, Susan Sparkes, Elina Dale, Jacky Mathonnat | Health Systems and Reform | 2018 | Research Article

Health taxes: a primer
Health taxes WHO Team | 2019 | Policy Brief

Political economy

Addressing the political economy of health financing reform
Susan P. Sparkes, Jesse B. Bump, Ece A. Özçelik, Joseph Kutzin, Michael R. Reich | Health Systems and Reform Special Issue | 2019 | Research Article

PFM & budgeting

Leveraging public financial management for better health
WHO | 2019 | Webinar within a six-part series (70 minutes)

Budget matters for health: key formulation and classification issues
Helene Barroy, Elina Dale, Susan Sparkes, Joe Kutzin | 2018 | Health financing policy brief nr 18.4

From Overall Fiscal Space to Budgetary Space for Health: Connecting Public Financial Management to Resource Mobilisation in the Era of COVID-19
Hélène Barroy and Sanjeev Gupta
Center for Global Development | October 2020 | Policy Paper


Health financing policy and implementation in fragile and conflict-affected settings: a synthesis of evidence and policy recommendations
Matthew Jowett, Elina Dale, Andre Griekspoor, Grace Kabaniha, Awad Mataria, Maria Bertone, Sophie Witter | WHO | 2019 | Health Financing Guidance No.7

Session providers

Session 4 will be delivered by Professor Sophie Witter, Professor of International Health Financing and Health Systems, Queen Margaret University, Joseph Kutzin, Coordinator, Health Financing Policy, WHO and Matthew Jowett, Senior Health Financing Specialist, WHO and facilitated by Jo Keatinge, FCDO


More information on the K4D Health Systems Strengthening Learning Journey can be found here.

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