Prioritizing Public Spending on Health in Lower-Income Countries: The Role of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents

The Global Financing Facility (GFF), launched in 2015, is a partnership backed by a multi-donor World Bank trust fund that aims to “prioritize and scale-up evidence-driven investments to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health and nutrition (RMNCAH-N) interventions” in low- and lower middle-income countries. A major component of the GFF’s operational model is centered around the investment case, described by the GFF as “a description of the changes that a country wants to see with regard to reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCAH) and a prioritized set of investments required to achieve these results.”

Looking retrospectively at investment cases and associated ongoing World Bank operations, this paper aims to shed light on specific aspects of the GFF’s operating model, approach, theory of change, and results to date related to the “development of a costed and prioritized investment case,” and whether the investment case helps to prioritize public spending on health in the real world. The portfolio-wide findings suggest that the GFF delivers a clear value-add within the global health architecture by directing more funding to flow directly through governments via increased World Bank lending for RMNCAH-N (especially in the context of COVID-19-related service disruptions and fiscal contractions). The role of the investment case in aligning and prioritizing resources behind a consensus set of highest-value RMNCAH-N interventions within a specific funding envelope is less well documented in the public domain; GFF efforts to directly influence government RMNCAH-N spending decisions and their efficiency seem to occur primarily through follow-on resource mapping and expenditure tracking.

The paper concludes with three recommendations for the GFF and its donors: (1) pursue a deliberate strategy for prioritization of RMNCAH-N services and products within the realistic budget constraint to advance evidence-based decisions on certain trade-offs; (2) increase transparency and public visibility into GFF-supported activities and funding, especially related to RMNCAH-N product procurement and overall resource tracking; and (3) explore incentives for increased donor co-financing within the framework of World Bank projects as a strategy to pool and channel more resources through government coffers.   

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