BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Discussions on the growing engagement of the private sector in healthcare delivery



Universal health coverage (UHC) is based on the fact that all humans have a right to health. It is a movement to make sure that everyone receives the health care and services that they need, at the time which they need it, in the appropriate way or quality and without suffering any financial hardship or going bankrupt while paying for them. To achieve this, it is important that the public sector, which is governments, fulfill their legal obligations to realize this human right to health. In view of UHC, it is therefore important to assess and evaluate the growing engagement and involvement of private parties in the health sector because of their reputation and mission to maximize and prioritize profits and gains. More so, private sectors are not under legal obligations to provide subsidized care or public goods; they may also not have sufficient funds and incentives to accommodate externalities that affect the availability, timeliness, accessibility and quality of health care services.

The engagement of the private sector in the delivery of healthcare includes a broad range of activities carried out by various non-governmental players. These players may include independent multi-national companies, nongovernmental organizations, and nonprofit entities. Undeniably, these private or non-state sectors, including international donors, non-governmental organizations, for-profit providers and traditional healers, play important roles in health care financing and delivery, especially in developing countries. In this way, private sectors have remained useful and their resources have been harnessed in furthering UHC and other public and global health goals through public private engagements or partnerships.  Though, this may present some challenges in terms of the ethics, efficiency, safety, effectiveness and cost of health services- given the fact that they’re set-up for profit.

These partnerships are complex and take a variety of forms. It is important for governments in developing countries to strengthen positive private partnerships and take advantage of them to achieve UHC since the lack of resources hinders them to solely deliver and finance healthcare unlike developed countries where the governments mostly fulfill this role. Consequently, the health systems of most developing countries are ‘mixed’- private sectors are integrated with public health systems, with market systems often playing the leading role. Unfortunately, in such systems and countries, insufficient government funding and poor regulation of the private sectors continue to undermine the equity and efficiency of the health system, healthcare and services in general.

In global health, there are many successful partnerships with the private sector that help save and improve lives- according to United States Agency for International Development (USAID). These partnerships facilitate additional funding, contribute unique expertise and help scale impact. USAID emphasizes collaboration, co-design, and co-financing with private sectors, as the drivers of capital markets, to achieve a faster, inclusive growth in global health.

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