Event Showcases HEP+ Role in Advancing Guatemala's Health Sector Reform and the Role of Civil Society
The Health and Education Policy Plus (HEP+) project in Guatemala, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), celebrated almost seven years of accomplishments with an in-person event in Guatemala City, streamed live. The event showcased achievements in improved health governance, health financing, health service delivery and access, and capacity development in topics such as health and policy monitoring, policy dialogue, and advocacy to improve health outcomes in Guatemala.
More than 170 people attended the event in person and about 75 people viewed the live stream broadcast. Distinguished guests included Guatemala’s Minister of Health, the Vice Minister of Hospitals, the Vice Minister of Primary Health, the Attorney General of Human Rights, and the Vice Minister of Financial Administration; USAID representatives and development partners; civil society leaders; and HEP+ project representatives from headquarters.
The results achieved respond to the priorities identified collaboratively with the Guatemalan government and the Ministry of Health. … We are sure that all of the positive achievements from this [project] period will be maximized to continue improving health outcome indicators for the Guatemalan population, especially in rural areas. (translated from Spanish)
– Derek Sedlacek, USAID
HEP+ Deputy Project Director Dr. Telma Duarte welcomed guests, after which Health Policy Plus (HP+) Project Director Suneeta Sharma noted that across the globe, HP+ has featured 1,700 partners in 40 countries, with 2,000 results, demonstrating its “evidence-to-action” approach. She also highlighted the tools developed and capacity strengthening provided by HEP+, noting that as of May 2022, HEP+ Guatemala had trained over 6,500 people in family planning, sexual and reproductive health, nutrition, project management, and finance and that the project designed and delivered 11 digital tools that have been implemented by government and civil society.
Derek Sedlacek, USAID Guatemala Director of the Health and Education Office, said HEP+ had helped advance USAID’s strategic development plan for Guatemala as part of its support for a stronger Guatemala. HEP+ Country Director Herminia Reyes presented the project’s objectives and components, followed by a video overview of the project’s achievements in health sector reform, health and nutrition policies, civil society and governance, strategic information systems, and its COVID-19 response. Dr. Sofía Posadas, Deputy Director of Pediatrics at the Regional Hospital of Escuintla, thanked HEP+ for its COVID-19 response, noting that since the beginning of the pandemic, the project was always there.
Breakout rooms at the event focused on two themes: (1) governance and health sector reform, with a focus on the project’s response to COVID-19, and (2) civil society. In the first session, HEP+ representatives explained improving health systems management and health service delivery along with the COVID-19 response—all of which spanned the 11 pillars of the World Health Organization’s recommendations on technical assistance. During the civil society breakout session, representatives from the Indigenous Women’s National Alliance for Reproductive Health, Education, and Nutrition (ALIANMISAR), the Men’s Network for Health, Education, and Nutrition, and the Sexual and Reproductive Health Watchdog (OSAR) described their strengthened capacity as a result of partnering with HEP+ and how this has supported their health service provision and quality monitoring, and advocacy and political dialogue. Both sessions emphasized that the achievements of the project would not be possible without the collaboration, trust, and partnerships struck between the project and its key partners—the Guatemalan government and civil society organizations.
In between presentations, speeches, and panel discussions, participants joined interactive video panels to learn more about HEP+ and its accomplishments, read handouts about different areas of HEP+’s work, and watched respiratory specialists demonstrate the use of ventilators that USAID had previously donated to priority hospitals in Guatemala to assist in treating COVID-19 patients.
Attendees, mindful of important progress made in Guatemala over the years because of HEP+, recognized that there is still work to be done to ensure optimum health outcomes for Guatemalans. ALIANMISAR President Silvia Xinico reflected the need to continue doing this work so that everyone stands up and no one gets left behind.