Document Type: Original Article
Department of History, Political Science & Development Studies, Dar es Salaam University College of Education, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Institute of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Decentralisation in the health sector has been promoted in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) for many years. Inherently, decentralisation grants decision-making space to local level authorities over different functions such as: finance, human resources, service organization, and governance. However, there is paucity of studies which have assessed the actual use of decision-making space by local government officials within the decentralised health system. The objective of this study was to analyse the exercise of decision space across four districts in Tanzania and explore why variations exist amongst them.
The study was guided by the decision space framework and relied on interviews and documentary reviews. Interviews were conducted with the national, regional and district level officials; and data were analysed using thematic approach.
Decentralisation has provided moderate decision space on the Community Health Fund (CHF), accounting for supplies of medicine, motivation of health workers, additional management techniques and rewarding the formally established health committees as a more effective means of community participation and management. While some districts innovated within a moderate range of choice, others were unaware of the range of choices they could utilise. Leadership skills of key district health managers and local government officials as well as horizontal relationships at the district and local levels were the key factors that accounted for the variations in the use of the decision space across districts.
This study concludes that more horizontal sharing of innovations among districts may contribute to more effective service delivery in the districts that did not have active leadership. Additionally, the innovations applied by the best performing districts should be incorporated in the national guidelines. Furthermore, targeted capacity building activities for the district health managers may improve decision-making abilities and in turn improve health system performance.