Background: Integrated into the work in health systems strengthening (HSS) is a growing focus on the importance of ensuring quality of the services delivered and systems which support them. Understanding how to define and measure quality in the different key World Health Organization building blocks is critical to providing the information needed to address gaps and identify models for replication.
Description of approaches: We describe the approaches to defining and improving quality across the five country programs funded through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation African Health Initiative. While each program has independently developed and implemented country-specific approaches to strengthening health systems, they all included quality of services and systems as a core principle. We describe the differences and similarities across the programs in defining and improving quality as an embedded process essential for HSS to achieve the goal of improved population health. The programs measured quality across most or all of the six WHO building blocks, with specific areas of overlap in improving quality falling into four main categories: 1) defining and measuring quality; 2) ensuring data quality, and building capacity for data use for decision making and response to quality measurements; 3) strengthened supportive supervision and/or mentoring; and 4) operational research to understand the factors associated with observed variation in quality.
Conclusions: Learning the value and challenges of these approaches to measuring and improving quality across the key components of HSS as the projects continue their work will help inform similar efforts both now and in the future to ensure quality across the critical components of a health system and the impact on population health.