Working Paper
Two decades of Tanzanian health policy

Examining policy developments and opportunities through a gender lens

Tanzania has undertaken important health sector reforms in the new millennium, and the most recent Health Sector Strategic Plan (2021–26) lays out ambitious targets to achieve universal health coverage. Yet, women in Tanzania continue to face significant barriers in accessing healthcare and the country is grappling with important gender-biased health challenges disadvantaging women.

The aims of this paper are two-fold. First, we examine the evolution of Tanzania’s health policy over the past two decades (2000–21) from the perspective of enhancing financial protection for working-age women. Second, we explore policy options for gender-responsive health insurance expansion in the context of Tanzania. Methodologically, the paper draws on a scoping study of diverse literature and data and a review of evidence from other contexts with public health insurance schemes.

We find that Tanzania has a fragmented health system that relies on several independent schemes introduced throughout the years, characterized by insufficient risk-pooling. Such a system provides insufficient financial protection for working-age women and female-headed households, which are financially less secure than dual-earner households.

Although expanding health insurance coverage represents a viable corrective measure, future reforms must account for women’s lower financial contribution capacity to enable equitable access. Additionally, the policy design requires gender-mainstreamed investments in awareness-raising, service quality, and benefit packages.