Revision of Malawi’s Health Benefits Package: A Critical Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation [Editor's Choice]



Health benefits packages (HBPs), which define specific health services that can be offered for free or at a reduced cost to fit within public revenues, have been recommended for over 30 years to maximize population health in resource-limited settings. However, there remain gaps in defining and operationalizing HBPs. We propose a combination of design and prioritization methods along with practical strategies to improve the implementation of future iterations of the HBP in Malawi.


For HBP development for Malawi’s Third Health Sector Strategic Plan, we combined cost-effectiveness analysis with a quantitative, consultative multicriteria decision analysis. Throughout the process of development, we documented challenges and opportunities to improve HBP design and application.


The primary and secondary HBP included 115 interventions. However, the definition of an HBP is just one step toward focusing limited resources, with functional operationalization as the most critical component. Full implementation of previous HBPs has been limited by challenges in aid coordination with the misalignment of nonfungible vertical donor funding for the HBP without accounting for the complexity and interconnectedness of the health system. Opportunities for improved application include creation of a complementary minimum health service package to guide overall resource inputs through an integrative approach.


We believe that expanded participatory HBP methods that consider value, equity, and social considerations, along with a shift to providing integrated health service packages at all levels of care, will improve the efficiency of using scarce resources along the journey to universal health coverage.


Emilia Connolly Sakshi Mohan Pakwanja Twea Thulasoni Msuku Andreas Kees Lalit Sharma Stephanie Heung Dominic Nkhoma Gerald Manthalu

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