WHO Health Systems Library
Change to French interface versionChange to Spanish interface version
WHO Health Systems Library

This WHO Health Systems Library contains a selection of recent publications on key issues relating to health systems and services: human resources for health; essential medicines and health technologies; financing; governance and service delivery, as well as primary health care.

Health systems and services

A good health system prevents and relieves suffering, and saves lives. It provides high quality prevention, treatment and care that is accessible and affordable to all people. Strong health systems are critical to sustaining gains made in tackling diseases such as polio, HIV, TB and malaria, and to reducing infant and maternal mortality.

WHO works with countries worldwide to strengthen health systems building blocks - service delivery, health workforce, health information, medical products, vaccines and technologies, financing, leadership and governance. In practice, this means establishing global norms and standards, using its networks of collaborating experts and centers to solve problems, and giving technical support and advice in countries.

Its work is based on the four tenets of primary health care: universal health coverage; service delivery that focuses on people's needs; leadership; and health in all policies. Universal health coverage is particularly important and will be the theme of the opening discussion of the World Health Assembly 2012.

Health Systems and Services: publications
Guidelines | Latest publications

Universal Health Coverage

Universal health coverage is a widely shared political aim for most countries and has gathered increasing international attention recently. Achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals and the next wave of targets looking beyond 2015 will depend critically on how countries succeed in moving towards universal coverage.

Universal health coverage is formally defined as coverage with needed health services, of sufficient quality to be effective, for all, without exposure to financial hardship linked to having to pay for the services when accessing them.

The goal of achieving universal health coverage is firmly based on the WHO constitution of 1948 declaring health a fundamental human right and on the Health for All agenda set by the Alma-Ata declaration in 1978.

As the World Health Report 2010 “Health systems financing: The path to universal coverage” concluded, by reforming their health financing systems, countries can increase coverage with needed health services and extend financial risk protection , thereby reducing impoverishment from healthcare payments. However, while modifications to health financing systems are critical, they are not sufficient by themselves. If there are insufficient health workers, or medicines, or health services are of poor quality, reaching universal health coverage will not be possible. Universal health coverage requires, therefore, an integrated approach to improving all parts of the health system.

Health Systems Financing

A good health financing system raises adequate funds for health, in ways that ensure people can use needed services, and are protected from financial catastrophe or impoverishment associated with having to pay for them. It provides incentives for providers and users to be efficient.
Health Systems Financing

Health Workforce

A well-performing health workforce is one that works in ways that are responsive, fair and efficient to achieve the best health outcomes possible, given available resources and circumstances (i.e. there are sufficient staff, fairly distributed; they are competent, responsive and productive).
Human Resources for Health, Health Workforce

Medicines and Technologies

A well-functioning health system ensures equitable access to essential medical products, vaccines and technologies of assured quality, safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness, and their scientifically sound and cost-effective use.
Essential Health Technologies | Essential Medicines and Pharmaceutical Policies

Service Delivery, Leadership and Governance

Good health services deliver effective, safe, quality personal and non-personal health interventions to those that need them, when and where needed, with minimum waste of resources. Leadership and governance involves ensuring strategic policy frameworks exist and are combined with effective oversight, coalition-building, regulation, attention to system-design and accountability.
Health System Governance and Service Delivery

International Health Partnership (IHP+)
Visit the IHP+ web site | Publications | Latest publications
IHP+ is a group of partners who share a common interest in improving health services and health outcomes by putting Paris and Accra principles on aid effectiveness into practice.

IHP+ is open to all developing and developed country governments, and agencies and civil society involved in improving health who are willing to sign up to the commitments of the IHP+ Global Compact. As of April 2011, twenty-seven countries have signed up: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Viet Nam and Zambia.

Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA)
Visit the Global Workforce Alliance web site | Publications
The GHWA is an inclusive, not-for-profit entity and welcomes all organizations and agencies from: governments, the United Nations, civil society, academia, foundations, professional and patient associations, private enterprise, global and regional health initiatives and partnerships and other organizations committed to health workers' concerns.

Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR)
Visit the HPSR web site | Publications | Latest publications
The Alliance is an international collaboration based in the WHO Geneva. It has its origins in the recommendations of the 1996 report of WHO's Ad Hoc Committee on Health Research which identified lack of health policy and systems research as a key problem impeding the improvement of health outcomes in low and middle income countries.

WHO publications and documents

WHO publications and documents - in multiple languages - are available for free download from the WHO Library database. Printed copies can be ordered from the WHO Bookshop, which offers discounts on orders from developing countries. The Bookshop also offers priced subscriptions to periodicals, book series and thematic packages.
WHO Library database | WHO Bookshop | Subscriptions

Last updated: May 4, 2012