MSH Launches Country Surveys Measuring Access to Medicines

The SEAM Program Conducts Country Assessments in Six Developing Countries

WASHINGTON, DC (MAY 2, 2001) — Management Sciences for Health (MSH) announced today that the Strategies for Enhancing Access to Medicines (SEAM) Program is conducting six country assessments to identify problems in access to essential medicines. This follows an international conference in December 2000, co-hosted by MSH and the World Health Organization (WHO), where indicators for measuring drug access were proposed.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, SEAM began the assessments in Ghana and will continue over the next four months in five other countries: Brazil (state of Minas Gerais), Cambodia, El Salvador, India (state of Rajasthan), and Tanzania.

The indicators measure four aspects of drug access—availability, geographic accessibility, affordability, and acceptability—along with the crosscutting issue of quality for both services and products. Indicators are being tested at national, health facility, and household levels. Results of the country assessments will help MSH and other collaborating organizations determine which indicators best assess drug access.

"These assessments will draw from the expertise of national and local opinion leaders within each country to identify the major barriers to access and appropriate initiatives to overcome them. Experts include representatives from the public sector health care services, academic institutions, non-governmental and consumer advocacy organizations, and commercial firms," said David Lee, Deputy Director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Management at MSH.

Following the conclusion of the assessments, the SEAM Program will host an international conference from September 25-27, 2001 in Washington, D.C. The conference will present the results of the six country assessments and will provide a forum for discussing targeted interventions in two or three countries.

The interventions will be developed with the collaboration and support of local decision-makers and development organizations working within the countries. The groups will develop and implement innovative systems that increase consumer access to health commodities through increased use of private sector infrastructure and services, as well as improve the quality of private sector pharmaceutical services to support public health objectives.