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“Using the law as a tool for health delivery”
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“Using the law as a tool for health delivery”

Ronald Tukachungurwa picDelivering health care is a challenge for most countries, but Ronald Tukachungurwa, 24, a Correspondent from Kampala in Uganda, argues properly crafted and enforced laws can be an important step in overcoming those hurdles.

Most countries, especially the Low Developed Countries (LDCs), have faced a challenge of service delivery. One such hardship is the provision of health services.

It is characteristic of many governments to grapple with support for the health department, unlike other sectors such as the department of defence, that continue to enjoy wide government support. It is important to note that while the rule of law remains at or below average in most LDCs, the law can be an important tool in the achieving of adequate health services and facilities in a country. This significance cannot be underscored enough, since society is a progressive field any developing society needs good laws to ensure not only order but also to achieve a level of development.[1] As such, the society will be determined by the laws it is hinged upon; the development may be in terms of infrastructure, governance, or service provision.

This is manifest both locally and internationally. For instance, internationally, different health organisations like the WHO, UN and concerned regional bodies have binding rules in form of declarations, treaties and conventions to govern the concerned/member parties that seek to benefit from the services. These are crucial in steering the different nations towards a progressive national health system such as the SDGs[2]. These laws seek to approve and reject any health practices that may benefit or deter the progress of a proper functional health system among the member states[3].

On the national level, while most developed countries enjoy greater health services and have respect for health rights, it is a different position among the LDCs that still do not to recognise the Right to Health as a fundamental human right in their national constitutions. But, nonetheless, the law still manifests its importance as far as the health sector is concerned. The law addresses the duties and responsibilities to be undertaken by the concerned authorities as well as penalty for failure to achieve the duties. This is in relation to incidents of corruption, abuse of office, and misappropriation of funds, among other evils that demean the health sector.

The laws are important in enhancing proper governance and efficient delivery. One such example is the Uganda Cancer Bill 2015, which seeks to set up a semi-autonomous body different from the government[4] which will promote cancer awareness, funding and cancer sensitisation among the masses, addressing challenges and doing away with the bureaucracy. This will create a structure unlike the past, where there was no streamlined approach to address the cancer problem[5].

The challenges facing the health sector include governance, corruption, abuse of office and misappropriation of funds, and poor leadership. All of these can be avoided if stringent laws are put in place to address these issues. However, despite having these laws, it is important to note that these laws require adequate implementation by both the government and society. A policy is more easily respected when accompanied by the force of law, as in the case of the Rwanda health insurance policy[6]. With the force of law in place, the evils facing the health service delivery can be overcome.

[1] Law is a traditional public health tool that has made vital contributions to the major public health achievements of the 20th century. Examples include school immunization laws that helped reduce the rates of infectious disease and tobacco control laws that helped reduce the rates of chronic disease. ACESSED AT http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2636607/

[2] For more about the SDGs read at http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/corporate/brochure/SDGs_Booklet_Web_En.pdf

[3] http://www.who.int/healthinfo/indicators/hsi_indicators_sdg_targetindicators_draft.pdf

[4] Uganda Cancer Bill accessible at http://parliamentwatch.ug/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/UGANDA-CANCER-INSTITUTTE-BILL.pdf

[5] http://radioonefm90.com/moh-wants-cancer-law-passed/

[6] Every Rwandan is obliged by law to have some form of health insurance. Read more at  http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/11/08-021108/en/

photo credit: _Y4A7569 via photopin (license)

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About me: I am a Ugandan lawyer, currently volunteering at the International Law Institute in Kampala. I am also the Ugandan Resident Director at the Africa Law Times, an online legal journal that promotes writings about events in Africa. In 2014, I was Uganda’s representative at the Commonwealth Moot Court Competition in London.

I am passionate about research writing, democracy and human rights, international law, criminal and humanitarian law, and I intend to become an international lawyer and policymaker.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response.
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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