Good planning and policymaking in the health sector require timely, accurate information about spending on inputs and services, as well as funding prospects in the near and medium terms. While some routine data are available on total health expenditure (divided into public and private spending) for most countries, more timely, complete, and detailed data
are required for policymaking.
In many developing countries, neither government agencies nor development agencies have routine access to such information at a level of detail that is useful for answering key policy questions. This information gap contributes to governments using incremental, rather than strategic, approaches to health-sector budgeting and thus missing opportunities to get more health for
At the global level, mobilizing resources to accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) depends on an ability to determine how funds are allocated and on measuring the results that are achieved. Donor agencies, aid analysts, and advocates use вЂњbest guessesвЂќ about how much funding is available relative to what would be required to achieve both near- and long-term health goals. Lack of credible estimates of donor commitments and actual funds available to global health programs greatly impedes planning, decision making, and advocacy efforts. Data systems and access to information lag behind the rhetoric of greater transparency and accountability in international agencies. For many health areas, both funders and observers
find it impossible to know whether the development community is living up to its commitments to provide greater and more effective transfers and timely flows of development assistance.
The Global Health Resource Tracking Working Group (the Working Group) was established in 2004 to examine these problems and undertake collaborative analyses to develop recommendations that would improve policy-relevant data on financial flows in global health. The group, which included representatives of leading funding and technical organizations, was convened under the
auspices of the Center for Global Development as part of a broader agenda of policy research on the effectiveness of development assistance for health. The project was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Through its work, the Working Group determined that many of the most challenging problems in global health resource tracking can be solved. The combination of political commitment, methodological advances, and modern information technologies could produce a step-change in collection and dissemination of information about resources within the health (and other) sectors.
The solution requires combined attention to improving the management of public-sector expenditures in developing countries, strengthening and institutionalizing national health accounts work, and improving the timeliness and comprehensiveness of reporting of external support from bilateral, multilateral, and private sources.