Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
On-line version ISSN 1680-5348
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
MARIN, José María. Strengthening the steering role of health authorities within the context of health sector reform. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2000, vol.8, n.1-2, pp.21-32. ISSN 1680-5348. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892000000700006.
Strengthening the ability of health authorities to provide leadership and guidance, now and in the future, is an important issue within the context of health sector reform. It means, among other things, redefining the role of health in light of leading social and economic trends seen in the world at the beginning of the 21st century, increasing participation in health by nongovernmental entities, moving toward participatory democracy in many countries, and modifying concepts of what is considered "public" and "private." Within this scenario, it is necessary to redirect the role of the health sector toward coordinating the mobilization of national resources, on a multisectoral scale, in order to improve equity and social well-being and to channel the limited available resources to the most disadvantaged groups in society. The liberalization of the production and distribution of health-related goods and services, including insurance, challenges the exercise of authority in the area of health. Furthermore, the formation of regional economic blocks and the enormous weight wielded by multinational companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies and technologies are forcing the health sector to seek ways of harmonizing health legislation and international negotiations. According to many experts, all of these demands surpass the ability of Latin American ministries of health to effectively respond, given most countries' current organizational, legal, and political conditions and technical infrastructure. The countries of the Americas must make it a priority to strengthen their health officials' ability to provide leadership and guidance in order to meet present and future challenges.