Teams of collaborators from Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, and Thailand have adapted a policy tool originally developed for evaluating health insurance reforms in the United States into "benchmarks of fairness" for assessing health system reform in developing countries. We describe briefly the history of the benchmark approach, the tool itself, and the uses to which it may be put. Fairness is a wide term that includes exposure to risk factors, access to all forms of care, and to financing. It also includes efficiency of management and resource allocation, accountability, and patient and provider autonomy. The benchmarks standardize the criteria for fairness. Reforms are then evaluated by scoring according to the degree to which they improve the situation, i.e. on a scale of -5 to 5, with zero representing the status quo. The object is to promote discussion about fairness across the disciplinary divisions that keep policy analysts and the public from understanding how trade-offs between different effects of reforms can affect the overall fairness of the reform. The benchmarks can be used at both national and provincial or district levels, and we describe plans for such uses in the collaborating sites. A striking feature of the adaptation process is that there was wide agreement on this ethical framework among the collaborating sites despite their large historical, political and cultural differences.
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