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Background: As called for by the Sustainable Development Goals, governments, development partners and civil society are working on anti-corruption, transparency and accountability approaches to control corruption and advance Universal Health Coverage.

Objectives: The objective of this review is to summarize concepts, frameworks, and approaches used to identify corruption risks and consequences of corruption on health systems and outcomes. We also inventory interventions to fight corruption and increase transparency and accountability.

Methods: We performed a critical review based on a systematic search of literature in PubMed and Web of Science and reviewed background papers and presentations from two international technical meetings on the topic of anti-corruption and health. We identified concepts, frameworks and approaches and summarized updated evidence of types and causes corruption in the health sector.

Results: Corruption, or the abuse of power for private gain, in health systems includes bribes and kickbacks, embezzlement, fraud, political influence/nepotism and informal payments, among other behaviors. Drivers of corruption include individual and systems level factors such as financial pressures, poorly managed conflicts of interest, and weak regulatory and enforcement systems. We identify six typologies and frameworks that model relationships influencing the scope and seriousness of corruption, and show how anti-corruption strategies such as transparency, accountability, and civic participation can affect corruption risk. Little research exists on the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures; however, interventions such as community monitoring and insurance fraud control programs show promise.

Conclusions: Corruption undermines the capacity of health systems to contribute to better health, economic growth and development. Interventions and resources on prevention and control of corruption are essential components of health system strengthening for Universal Health Coverage.