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Free Content Editorial: A view from beneath: Community Health Insurance in Africa

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This paper presents an overview of the development of Community Health Insurance (CHI) in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2003, nearly 600 CHI initiatives were registered in a dozen countries of francophone West Africa alone. At regional level, coordination networks have been created in Africa with the aim to support and monitor the developments of this innovative model of health care financing. At national level, governments are preparing the necessary legal frameworks for CHI implementation. CHI is increasingly seen as a strategy to meet other development goals than only health. It constitutes an interesting model to finance health care, to pool financial resources in a fair way and to empower health care users. The CHI movement however still faces many challenges. The relevance of more professional inputs in the management of CHI and the need for careful subsidy of CHI schemes are increasingly recognized. There is also need to optimize the relationship of CHI with the other actors in the health system and to scale-up CHI so as to gain in effectiveness and efficiency. The boom in the number of schemes in Africa during the last years is an indicator of the increasing attractiveness of the model. In practice however, enrolment rates per scheme remain low or are only slowly increasing. Context-specific research is needed on the reasons that prevent people from enrolling in larger numbers. On that basis, relevant action to be taken locally can be identified.
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Keywords: access; community health insurance; financing; sub-Saharan Africa; user empowerment

Document Type: Editorial

Affiliations: 1:  Initiative de Communication pour le Développement Social (ICODES)-Afrique, Dakar, Senegal 2:  Department of Public Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium

Publication date: 2007-02-01

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