International declaration promotes leadership in health care

Published 30 November 2009

signingA declaration drafted at an international conference in Phitsanulok, Thailand, organised by the University of New England and Thailand’s Naresuan University, emphasises the importance of high-quality education and training for health service managers.

The “Phitsanulok Declaration” says that the conference – the 1st International Conference on Health Service Delivery Management – was “the first opportunity in the South-East Asia and Asia Pacific regions to emphasise the importance of leadership and health management as essential precursors to health systems working to achieve high-quality health care for all”.

“The 450 delegates from 17 countries and 14 health and education organisations recognise the importance of a revitalised primary health care system – particularly in rural areas and at the local district level,” it continues. “This requires well trained professional health managers to be effective.”

The declaration is being circulated to all the conference delegates with a request that they translate it into their own languages and distribute it as widely as possible. “The delegates to this conference seek implementation of this declaration and pledge to continue to work together and expand the collaboration on which this declaration was founded,” it says.

Dr David Briggs, a Senior Lecturer in UNE’s School of Health who was one of the conveners of the Phitsanulok conference, held in October, explained that the declaration had been drafted through a process of extensive discussion during and after the conference.

“The University of New England is committed to raising issues of relevance to rural communities at a global level,” said UNE’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Webb. “This landmark declaration signals the importance of training health managers to meet the challenges of providing effective leadership, and for planning integrated services for populations who require health care in rural communities, where health needs are often underserviced.”

Dr Briggs is one of several UNE staff members who are acting as advisers to Naresuan University’s Centre of Expertise on Leadership in Health Management. “The South-East Asia Regional Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) was one of the major partners in the Phitsanulok conference,” he said, “and a significant outcome of the conference is that the Naresuan University Centre is now undergoing designation as a WHO Collaborating Centre of Expertise.”

Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, is another of UNE’s advisers to the Naresuan University Centre, and was an invited speaker at the symposium that discussed the declaration.  “The declaration is a significant step towards meeting the growing expectations of the public with regard to receiving high-quality and effective health care,” Professor Minichiello said.

“A widely-reported issue in the media is the crisis in the health care system at a global level, and the challenges that the system faces,” he continued. “Central to this debate is the capacity of health service managers to deal with the economic context of delivering health care, and to introduce reforms in the delivery of primary health care that are innovative and forward thinking. The declaration recognises the importance of training – and of ensuring appropriate levels of qualifications – for those who work in health service management.”

THE IMAGE displayed here expands to show Professor Alan Pettigrew, who recently retired as Vice-Chancellor of UNE, signing the Phitsanulok Declaration during the conference in October.