From PERFORM to PERFORM2Scale: Lessons from scaling-up a health management strengthening intervention to support Universal Health Coverage in three African countries

10 Jul 2024
J Raven, W Mansour, M Aikins, S Bulthuis, K Chikaphupha, M Dieleman, M Kok, T Martineau, F Ssenggooba, K Wyss and F Vallières
A group of African men and women standing smiling on steps outside a building

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Strengthening management and leadership competencies among district and local health managers has emerged as a common approach for health systems strengthening and to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). While the literature is rich with localised examples of initiatives that aim to strengthen the capacity of district or local health managers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, considerably less attention is paid to the science of how to scale-up these initiatives.

The aim of this paper is thus to examine the process of scaling-up a management strengthening intervention (MSI) and identify new knowledge and key lessons learned that can be used to inform the scale-up process of other complex health interventions, in support of UHC.

Qualitative methods were used to identify lessons learned from scaling-up the MSI in Ghana, Malawi and Uganda. We conducted 14 interviews with district health management team (DHMT) members, three scale-up assessments with 20 scale-up stakeholders, and three reflection discussions with 11 research team members. We also kept records of activities throughout MSI and scale-up implementation. Data was recorded, transcribed, and analysed against the Theory of Change to identify both scale-up outcomes and the factors affecting these outcomes. The MSI was ultimately scaled-up across 27 districts.

Repeated MSI cycles over time were found to foster greater feelings of autonomy among DHMTs to address longstanding local problems, a more innovative use of existing resources without relying on additional funding, and improved teamwork. The use of ‘resource teams’ and the emergence of MSI ‘champions’ were both instrumental in supporting scale-up efforts. Challenges to the sustainability of the MSI included limited government buy-in and lack of sustained financial investment.

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Ghana; Uganda; Malawi; DHMT