The Health, Nutrition and Population (HNP) sector of Bangladesh has rapidly expanded and developed since independence of Bangladesh. It has accomplished remarkable performances in a number of crucial indicators such as use of family planning, growth rate of population, child immunization and infant mortality rate, elimination of several epidemic diseases, reduction of maternal mortality rate, and life expectancy. The sector has built up a large infrastructure and network, and employed a large army of manpower. The achievements of the sector are internationally acclaimed and many observers have considered some aspects of development miraculous judging in the context of the slow growth of most other public sectors and the sluggish growth of the economy. It has already attained success in some of the internationally set goals and targets. It has been striving hard to reach the goals and targets, which are yet to be reached. The government is aware of the truism that though the sector has already achieved commendable success, it has still to go a long way to achieve the desired level of success. It has been devoting increasing efforts to achieve continuous development. Every year a host of activities and interventions are carried out and new investments undertaken.
In early 1990s, one importunate concern for the policy makers of the sector became how to eke out the huge amount of expenditure incurred for the sector every year through enhanced efficiency of management and reduction of economic wastage. Already Health Economics emerged as an important discipline in the western countries to deal with issues related to efficiency, planning and budgeting, and financing of the public health subsector, and the health sectors implemented the policy implications of Health Economics and achieved very good results. The MOHFW of Bangladesh was guided by this experience and established the HEU in 1994 to conduct research in HE and arrange training in HE for the managers of the sector in the universities of the UK. Very soon it appeared to the policy makers of the MOHFW that it is very costly to send the officials and managers abroad to get training in HE and hire in health economists from abroad for the HEU and the policy makers recognized the urgent need for institutional capacity building in HE within the country to bring into being required number of health economists to contribute to management of the sector and conduct research on health economic issues. This arrangement was considered resource saving and sustainable in the long run. Realization of these potential benefits of health economics capacity building led the ministry to initiate and help establishment of the Institute of Health Economics in 1998. The ministry chose the largest and the oldest university of the country as the location of the institute. In the first phase, the IHE was placed in the operational plan of HEU and the two units of Health Economics worked in close collaboration. The government persuaded the DFID to provide the technical and financial support in the initial periods. The DFID discontinued to play its supportive role after five years. The two units of the health economics capacity building still work in close collaboration.
The IHE has already come of age. It has been conducting the regular degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, conducting Executive Master’s program, running short training courses, carrying out research for the sector, and also participates in the activities of the HEU. The graduates of IHE are efficiently working in different organizations of the sector and contributing to formulation of plan and budget, implementation of plan in the efficient manner, devising appropriate pricing and financing methods, and economic evaluation of alternative techniques and drugs. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of IHE to expand its activities and improve quality of its performances. I strongly believe that given the demonstrated trend, the IHE will be able to reach its goal — to emerge as a Centre of excellence in teaching and research in the region — in the near future. I also take enormous pride in my being involved in its efforts for development. I wish it complete success in its efforts.
Mr. Md. Ashadul Islam
Director General and Additional Secretary
Health Economics Unit (HEU), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh