Making Decentralization Work: Policy and Management Issues and Implications of COVID-19


3rd to 14th August 2020, online.


Is decentralization good for improving the performance of a health system?  This is a recurrent issue debated in many countries and made even more important in the current COVID-19 outbreak, as different levels of government try to rapidly respond to the crisis.  

This course introduces new ways to think about decentralization and to design it so that it improves the performance of a health system.  Based on on-going research and consulting, the course addresses both policy and management issues related to designing, implementing and managing a decentralization transition. 

Experienced Harvard faculty members have developed this two-week comprehensive workshop to better equip policy makers and managers to meet the challenges of decentralization – now even more relevant in the age of COVID and other potential outbreaks.  In its new online format, the first week will address the policy level process while the second week will focus on enhancing management skills in the context of decentralization.

Participants will be learning from experience gained in the United States, as well as many other countries of the world.

Course Topics

  • Health System Decentralization: Approaches, Policy Options and COVID-19
  • Financing Options for Decentralized System
  • Human Resources in Decentralized Health Systems
  • Political Feasibility and Political Strategies Using “Policy Maker” software
  • Strategic Management and Quality Management
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
  • Managing Organizational Change
  • Lessons for COVID-19 (included in all sessions)

Who Should Join

This workshop has been designed for experienced, senior managers and policy-makers in developing and transitional economies. Officials who are concerned about implementing greater managerial autonomy in previously rigid government bureaucracies will find the experience very useful. Policy makers and managers will be expected from both government and non-government organizations.

Online Educational Approach

This interactive, online course offers a blend of theory and practice, geared to an audience focused upon policy design and implementation.  Included throughout the course are both prerecorded lectures and live synchronous sessions, polling, online Q&A, breakout groups, case studies, problem sets, and preparation of group and individual case presentations.  Virtual classroom points will most often be made through interactive learning methods, rather than through lectures. Facilitated online discussion among experienced participants is expected throughout. Participants are encouraged to have on hand their own country material and resources on health systems related to the process of decentralization and management and useful in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the Course Directors

Dr. Thomas J. Bossert will lecture on decentralization. He is a senior lecturer on Health Policy and Senior Political Scientist in the Department of Global Health and Population, and the director of the Politics Governance Group and International Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He has directed technical assistance projects and applied research in Latin America, Asia and Africa on decentralization, institutional transformation and health policy reform.

Dr. Diana Bowser will lecture on health system assessments and stakeholder analysis.  Her primary academic appointment is at Brandeis University. She is Associate Professor and Director of the Masters in Science Program in Global Health Policy and Management. She has 18 years of experience in health system analysis related to health economics, health policy, and using econometric methods to evaluate health system changes in Latin America, Africa, and the United States. She has provided technical assistance and conducted research with funding from USAID, DFID, WHO, the Global Fund, Save the Children, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, IADB, NIH, and the World Bank. She has worked closely with the following governments on these policy issues: Nigeria, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Namibia, Swaziland, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Ukraine, Kosovo, Bangladesh, and Malaysia.

Previous Lecturers:
Barry C. Dorn, M.D.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Health Care Negotiation Associates
Associate Director of Program for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

David G. Javitch, Ph.D.
President, Javitch Associates
Adjunct Assistant Professor on Health Policy and Management
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Gregory P. Marchildon, Ph.D.
Professor and Ontario Research Chair
Health Policy and System Design
Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation
University of Ontario

Please email Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health for more information at

General Information
Date: 3rd to 14th August 2020

Location: Online

Betty McNally

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
665 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

For an application with tuition price and more details about program visit the website.

Published in GI-Mail 07/2020 (German & English edition).

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