As critical health indicators such as maternal and child mortality rates have declined in Iraq, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has engaged in a process of health system reform and is currently moving forward with reorganizing and stabilizing health services throughout the country. Ensuring access to routine, high quality, and equitable healthcare has emerged as a critical need and the Government of Iraq (GOI) is responding with vigor and commitment by placing a renewed emphasis on improving the quality of Primary Health Care (PHC) services. To assist with these efforts, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in March 2011 awarded University Research Co. LLC (URC) the four-year Primary Health Care Project in Iraq (known as PHCPI) to support the MoH in achieving its goal of improving the quality of care for all Iraqi people. USAID/PHCPI aims to strengthen health sector capacity to provide essential PHC services and expand availability of such services throughout the country, with increasing coverage for vulnerable and at-risk populations, such as children under five, women, and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Strengthening health services has been a key area of collaboration between USAID and the MoH. USAID/PHCPI demonstrated their continued commitment to support the MoH in accelerating gains in quality health services delivery by publicly signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the MoH. The MoU signing on September 20, 2011 formalized the collaborative and productive working relationship already in place between the MoH and the PHCPI team.
The MoH Deputy Minister stated that “this MOU solidifies an effective partnership with the USAID/PHCPI, which will provide imperative technical assistance towards securing an efficient health delivery system, improved clinical skills and further integration of public participation in health services through the PHC centers.”
Memorandum of Understanding Highlights
The MOU was signed by MoH Senior Deputy Minister, Dr. Essam Nameq on behalf of the Health Minister and USAID Deputy Mission Director Mr. Alex Deprez. This event was attended by high official representatives from USAID Washington and Iraq mission as well as MoH. During this event, the MoH and USAID mutually expressed commitment to make sustainable, long-term achievements in the development of the Iraqi health sector. The PHCPI Chief of Party (COP) highlighted the project’s ultimate goal of better health for Iraqis and the three components of the project that will facilitate improved Primary Health Care (PHC) quality outcomes with emphases on community partnership to expand the access to health care services and ultimately reduce morbidity and mortality rates in Iraq.
USAID Deputy Mission Director declared that, “The PHCPI through its strong collaboration with MoH and other stakeholders will work to improve the quality of and ensure the availability and utilization of highly functional and accessible clinical services, which aligns with the MoH’s five year strategic plan.
Summary of Memorandum of Understanding
The MOU highlights collaborative activities that will be supported with the aim of attaining sustainable improvements in the country’s PHC processes, both in terms of management and clinical aspects of service delivery. The PHCPI team in collaboration with the MoH will achieve health care improvements by utilizing an institutionalized, modern Quality Improvement (QI) approach, which involves the following scientific methodology: defining a quality standard, measuring actual practice compared to the standard, making process changes in a planned way, and measuring results to demonstrate improved quality.
This MoU recognizes the importance of USAID’s contribution to strengthening the Iraqi PHC system to deliver sustainable quality health care services. This MoU between MoH and USAID aims to support and extend the active cooperation of the two parties through a common commitment to:
- Develop sustainable skills, organizational structures and resources in support of quality PHC improvements;
- Assist the MoH to achieve its strategic vision by developing cost-effective goals and objectives oriented to the delivery of quality health care services;
- Improve the management as well as the quality of PHC services; and
- Develop and enhance community partnerships to provide quality health service delivery to the citizens of Iraq.
This platform of cooperation is a sign of confidence in the continued and heightened collaboration between the MoH and USAID to make sustainable, long-term achievements in the development of the Iraqi health sector. This event, which was captured by various Iraqi news outlets and media, served as a communal pledge by the MoH and USAID to ensure that all Iraqis have access to quality PHC services. Through this partnership, the PHCPI will be able to assist Iraq in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, so that all Iraqi children grow up healthy, women are able to consistently access antenatal care and deliver their babies safely and preventable diseases are reduced through rapid and careful attention at the primary care level. The collaborative partnership, evidenced by this event, promises to lay the ground work for attaining tangible results in the fight against existing and emerging health concerns, such as chronic and noncommunicable diseases.