The health of women and children is a cornerstone for building healthy and stable societies around the world. Yet after decades of steady growth, development assistance for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (known as RMNCAH) has stagnated since 2011. Today, there is an estimated $60 billion annual deficit in health investment in Africa alone.
To fill this void, country governments need to work more purposefully and strategically to integrate the private sector, both local and global, into their plans for achieving universal health coverage (UHC).
Recently released analysis from Devex, supported by MSD for Mothers, outlines opportunities for the global health community to better engage the private sector and move beyond traditional philanthropy for stronger results. Partner for Progress: Advancing Private-Sector Approaches to Achieve the SDGs highlights that stakeholders across the global health arena see burgeoning opportunity in engaging the private sector, especially when it comes to increasing access to medical goods and services, improving the quality and sustainability of healthcare, and bolstering health workforces.
Indeed, in December 2018, USAID issued an ambitious private-sector engagement policy, calling private enterprise “one of the most powerful forces for lifting lives, strengthening communities and accelerating countries to self-reliance”.
The fact is, the private sector is already contributing to the health ecosystem in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) in myriad ways: as part of supply-chain systems, including delivering products to the last mile; as manufacturers of the drugs that patients need, and the community pharmacists that dispense them; as the creators of the IT networks and digital technologies that are increasingly being leveraged for health; as sources of medical training and finance. Private-sector providers are also already delivering a significant proportion of health services to patients.
Governments do not have sufficient financing, capacity or expertise to duplicate these functions – nor should they. Many countries, including Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana and Senegal, understand this, and are adapting their policies and approaches accordingly.