There is a growing need for new knowledge and knowledge exchange in health systems strengthening in the Asia region. Countries demand reference to successful policies and programmatic innovation. Absorptive capacity for new knowledge is seen as a key input to successful health reforms at the country level. Such capacity can be attained, aside from financial and technical assistance, through capacity building by empowering government stakeholders with knowledge and skills needed to design and carry forward the reforms.

Technical demands from the countries in East and South Asia vary a lot but common themes emerge. Many countries face a spill-over effect from the rapid economic growth related to the changing needs for health care and protection. Support for analytical work and technical assistance is needed to help address long-term challenges. The policy makers frequently need two types of knowledge: (a) theoretical frameworks to help them think about policies analytically, and (b) time-sensitive information assistance to help address strategic and implementation challenges when they occur.

Information and evidence often exist but is not necessarily collected, organized and provided in a useful and timely fashion. Training for capacity building, catering to the common need of the countries in the region as well as the particular situation of some, has to be thought out and provided in a strategic way. Institutions in Asia expressed a common desire for a consortium type network that can assist the governments to share experiences and lessons and also offer in-depth knowledge and practical skills training in the various areas of health systems strengthening.

As a result, the World Bank Institute (WBI) has supported the establishment of the Asia Network for Capacity Building in Health Systems Strengthening. The Network was launched during the world conference of the International Health Economics Association (iHEA) in Beijing, China, in July 2009. The partnership is the collaboration among nine national institutions and WBI.