Tashkent, 28 September 2023 (TDI): Uzbekistan has initiated an ambitious effort to modernize its healthcare system and progress toward achieving universal health coverage.

A recent report from WHO Europe outlines recommendations for comprehensive nationwide reform, aligned with the government’s objectives to expand the health reforms realized in the Syrdarya region.

This report, titled “Transforming the Health System in Uzbekistan, Two-year Implementation Review,” centers on three key areas of focus,

The first involves the transformation of primary healthcare, aiming to enhance its effectiveness and accessibility.

The second centers on the implementation of health financing reforms, which seek to improve the financial aspects of healthcare delivery and accessibility.

The third area emphasizes the further development and integration of digital tools within the healthcare sector, fostering innovation and efficiency in healthcare delivery and management.

During a national policy dialogue held in Tashkent on September 15, 2023, involving over 100 participants from various sectors, it was concluded that the plan provides practical guidance and timely recommendations for the healthcare system reform rollout by 2026.

Dr. Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat, Director of the Division of Country Health Policies and Systems at WHO Europe commented that the lessons learned in Syrdarya demonstrate the potential for tangible benefits in other regions.

She emphasized the importance of strong leadership and strategies to improve outcomes and alleviate financial burdens and expressed WHO Europe’s continued commitment to supporting Uzbekistan’s healthcare reform journey.

Dr. Farrukh Sharipov, Deputy Minister of Health of Uzbekistan, highlighted the promising foundation established by the review of health reforms.

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He noted that as plans for expansion to other regions take shape, the groundwork laid in Syrdarya will help identify necessary changes, leading to a more sustainable and efficient healthcare system.

The healthcare initiative in Uzbekistan began in 2020, resulting in landmark legislation implemented in Syrdarya in 2021. WHO’s Universal Health Coverage Partnership supported the development of the legal framework for these reforms.

Key achievements thus far include the establishment of a state health insurance fund, improved organization of primary healthcare services, new provider payment systems, and the introduction of advanced electronic health information systems.

These achievements have laid a solid foundation for future healthcare improvements and enhanced the capacity to build a more responsive and efficient national health system.

The report not only highlights significant progress but also consolidates actionable policy recommendations across the three core areas, crucial for effective nationwide rollout and progress toward universal health coverage for Uzbekistan’s population.

As the healthcare reform expands to Tashkent and Karakalpakstan, the report recommends establishing an interagency primary healthcare task force led by the Ministry of Health, involving high-level stakeholders to translate legislation into action.

In the area of primary healthcare, notable milestones include expanded roles for nurses, enabling family doctors to focus on complex cases, evidence-informed clinical guidelines, enhanced teamwork, and strengthened links between primary healthcare teams and local community organizations.

Furthermore, the report underscores the importance of reinforcing the role of family medicine within primary healthcare teams, advocating for the reintroduction of family medicine specialty training programs to enhance competencies and recognition.

In terms of health financing, the report commends the state health insurance fund’s pivotal role and recommends a tax-funded health insurance system.

It suggests monitoring the impact of newly implemented payment systems and emphasizes capacity development for the state health insurance fund.

Additional health financing recommendations encompass transitioning toward a national single finance pool, promoting autonomy for providers, and developing clear governance mechanisms and priorities for the e-health system.

This process involves establishing a legal framework, clarifying roles and responsibilities among stakeholders, and creating collection and analytical tools to facilitate informed decision-making in the healthcare sector.