In their Working Together for Health document, published in 2006, the World Health Organization identified the shortage of health workers with leadership and management skills as a key problem compounding the current health workforce crisis. WHO has argued that to achieve the health–related Millennium Development Goals, many low-income countries need to significantly scale up coverage of priority health services. This will generally require additional national and international resources but also good leadership and management skills that will allow effective use of these resources to achieve measurable results.
While the need to strengthen health leadership and management capacity at national and sub-national level has long been recognised, there is still a lack of evidence, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, about which strategies are appropriate and can make an impact on management performance and health service delivery. Recent studies have stressed the importance of moving beyond merely looking at training and development of managerial skills and taking a holistic approach to leadership and management capacity strengthening that interlinks with health system structures, priorities, values and resources.
The Asia-Pacific region has a complex geo-political context (e.g. the small island states of the Pacific and the large populations of the Mekong basin). The Leadership and Management group look to document and analyse the current contexts and approaches that have been used for strengthening health leadership and management capacity in the region. This is particularly important as health systems in the region continue to experiment with decentralisation. Strong leadership and management skills are needed at all levels to ensure that decentralisation and other health sector reforms yield the best outcomes. It is crucial especially that the capacity of health managers at district and sub-district levels are strengthened so that they can effectively handle the additional responsibilities and resources resulting from current and future decentralisation and health sector reform processes. To develop appropriate policy options for strengthening leadership and management capacity in the region, a comprehensive understanding of the various methodologies used or usable in different contexts within the region is also essential.