National health policies, strategies, and plans

From vision to operation

Effective planning at the various levels of a health system is essential for ensuring alignment between people’s needs and expectations, and overall national priorities. National policies, strategies and plans must, therefore, be linked to strategic and operational plans at sub-national and local levels.

The purpose of strategic national health planning is different from that of health planning at the local level. National strategic plans describe how national health policies are translated into broad national activities and targets, within ‘on-budget’ and ‘off-budget’ resource envelopes.

Health planning at the local level describes how all available resources are best used to operate the local health system. These resources may be through central government (for the health sector and for other sectors), or through contributions, in kind and/or cash, by civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and not-for profit and for-profit private sectors.

The extent of the linkage depends on the level of detail in the national strategic plan and the degree of decentralized autonomy at other levels. Broad national health strategies and goals need to be ‘translated’ by local health authorities into appropriate approaches and feasible operational health plans and targets, based on local circumstances. Similarly, national strategies should be constantly ‘fed’ by situation analyses and strategy development carried out at the various sub-national levels of the health system.