CIFF grant supports new health leadership development program

Fall 2011 ]

Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School of Government (HKS) will launch a unique ministerial health leadership development program next year in collaboration with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). Designed for ministerial-level leaders mainly from low- and middle-income countries, the program aims to promote health as a cornerstone of economic development, strengthen political leadership in health, and improve health system performance in the minsters’ own countries. The initiative will place special emphasis on innovations in maternal and child health.

Learning from distinguished peers

An intensive week-long introductory session for participants will open the program next June at HKS. Customized to address circumstances specific to each participating country, the program will focus on topics including leadership for transformation, health and development priority setting, political strategy, and financing. Distinguished former ministers and other high-level government leaders will contribute, adding an interactive “peer learning” dimension to the program. HSPH and HKS faculty, along with local institutions, will provide in-country technical and leadership support following the Harvard session to assist leaders in implementing health systems improvements. A year after the program, the ministers will reconvene for a three-day session that covers progress made and lessons learned.

CIFF, a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the lives of children living in poverty in developing countries, is supporting the program with a two-phase, seven-year grant. The grant awarded for the first phase is $4.01 million. The initial cohort of leaders will give priority to countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India, and in future years the program could expand to include leaders from other regions. Serving as the program’s executive director is Michael Sinclair, former Senior Vice President at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and head of the Foundation’s South Africa program. In that role he oversaw key priorities including health leadership development, child health, maternal mortality, and HIV/AIDS.

Housed within the new Division of Policy Translation and Leadership Development (PTLD) at HSPH, the program will carry out one of Dean Frenk‘s priorities: the translation of scientific knowledge into effective policies and actions. “I am profoundly grateful to CIFF for its support of this effort, which will help fulfill one of my goals as dean by enabling the School to convene current global health leaders to dramatically improve the health of their citizens,” says Dean Frenk. Jamie Cooper-Hohn, president and CEO of CIFF, says that the foundation’s partnership in this effort “reflects our appreciation that the policies, programs, and resources put in place and allocated by government leaders are key determinants of progress toward reducing the disproportionately high levels of children mortality and morbidity in these regions.” Cooper-Hohn is an alumna of the Kennedy School as well as a member of the HSPH Board of Dean’s Advisors.

Improving health systems

“This program hopes to provide a strategic framework aimed at substantially improving the health systems of multiple countries. It provides a bridge to exchange key information between global policy scientists, experienced ministerial policy advisers, and senior decision makers from countries engaged in a transformational process,” notes Division director Robert Blendon, a faculty member with joint appointments in the HSPH Department of Health Policy and Management and at HKS.

As a joint project of the two schools, the ministerial program also represents a unique opportunity to couple the Kennedy School’s long tradition of public leadership development with HSPH’s focus on transforming health systems. “We are excited to partner with the School of Public Health to create a unique program to improve the health and livelihood of citizens in developing countries by working with high-level leaders,” says HKS Dean David T. Ellwood. “This is a wonderful opportunity to engage with important international leaders who can create positive change for their societies.”