Not for us, without us: examining horizontal coordination between the Ministry of Health and other sectors to advance health goals in Uganda

Aloysius Ssennyonjo, Sara Van Belle, Freddie Ssengooba, Kristof Titeca, Rachael Bakubi, Bart Criel

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


The Ministry or Department of Health (M/DoH) is the mandated government agency for health in all countries. However, achieving good health and wellbeing requires the health sector to coordinate with other sectors such as the environment, agriculture and education. Little is known about the coordination relationship between MoH and other sectors to advance health and development goals in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Our study examined the coordination relationship between MoH and other government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) at the national level in Uganda. This was an embedded case study nested in a study on intragovernmental coordination at the central government in Uganda. A qualitative approach used document review and key informant interviews with government officials and non-state actors. Data were analysed thematically using a multitheoretical framework. The coordination relationship was characterized by interdependencies generally framed lopsidedly in terms of health sector goals and not vice versa. Actor opportunism and asymmetrical interests interacted with structural-institutional factors contributing to variable influence on internal and external coordination within and beyond MOH. Supportive mechanisms include (a) diverse health sector legal-institutional frameworks, (b) their alignment to broader government efforts and (c) the MOH's agency to leverage government-wide efforts. Constraints arose from (a) gaps in the legal-institutional framework, (b) demands on resources due to the 'broad' MOH mandate and (c) the norms of the MOH's professional bureaucracy and the predominance of medical professionals. This study underlines critical actions needed to improve coordination between the health and non-health sectors. Introspection within the MOH is vital to inform efforts to modify MOH's internal functioning and positioning within the broader government to strategically advance MOH's (development) aspirations. The nature of MoH's role in multisectoral efforts should be contingent. Consideration of mutual sectoral interdependencies and interactions with and within broader government systems is critical.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberczac079
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1221-1235
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Governance for health
  • multisectoral action for health
  • ministry of health
  • government
  • health in all policies
  • Uganda


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