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The Private Sector in Health

The Private Sector in Health (PSIH) Thematic Working Group examines the growing role of the non-state sector in delivering health care to people in developing countries and the related challenges and opportunities.

The non-state sector plays a significant role in delivering health care to people in developing countries. This poses significant challenges and opportunities in terms of the safety, effectiveness and cost of health services. There is a need to build systematic knowledge about patient demand for health care from private providers, the performance of private providers, the outcomes of regulatory interventions and the political economy of pluralistic health systems.

Objective

To encourage research that generates knowledge on these and other topics and provides opportunities for researchers, policymakers and practitioners to engage in policy debates.

Activities

The PSIH TWG has organized biennial symposia and webinars, has its own email newsletter, and its members have contributed to a number of journal collections on the role of the private sector in health. Recent activities include:

  • Mutual learning series: This is a mutual learning series on ‘Unlocking Private Enterprise for Public Good – Redesigning Mixed Health Systems for UHC during Covid-19 and Beyond’, with six roundtable discussions, which took place in 2020. It aims to identify ways that health systems research can help both governments and the private sector build health system capacity during the Covid-19 crisis, and also ensure that lessons learned during this emergency sustain and contribute to strengthening future health systems and achieving universal health coverage. The conclusions and recommendations were presented at HSR2020 in January 2021. A key outcome will be a collaborative platform on mixed health systems. Lead: Priya Balasubramaniam.
  • HSR2020: The PSIH TWG organised a HSR2020 TWG Organized Session on ‘Developing a Private Sector research agenda’ on 13 January 2021. On 2 Feb Priya Balasubramaniam and Desta Lakew participated in a #HSR2020 Twitter Live Conversation on ‘What have we learnt about health innovation and private-public partnerships in their response to the global pandemic?’. We also organised a TWG Business Meeting on 27 January.
  • Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC): The PSIH TWG will communicate and coordinate with Amref Health Africa and hosting partners to align relevant PSIH plans and activities with the AHAIC 2021 communications and engagement strategy. This could include organization of one or more panels to discuss evidence arising from monitoring, evaluation and research. AHAIC will take place in Kigali in March 2021.  Lead: Desta Lakew.
News and views

News and views

Access the latest blog posts and news items from the PSIH TWG.

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Facilitators

Phyllis Awor

Phyllis Awor

Coordinating committee member

Priya Balasubramaniam

Priya Balasubramaniam

Coordinating committee member

Gerry Bloom

Gerry Bloom

Coordinating committee member

Meenakshi Gautham

Meenakshi Gautham

Coordinating committee member

Desta Lakew

Desta Lakew

Coordinating committee member

Cicely Thomas

Cicely Thomas

Coordinating committee member

Uranchimeg Tsevelvaanchig

Uranchimeg Tsevelvaanchig

Coordinating committee member

Phyllis Awor

Phyllis Awor

Coordinating committee member

Phyllis Awor is a Ugandan Public Health Physician with over ten years of experience conducting health systems and operational research. She works at Makerere University School of Public Health as a Senior Researcher focusing on improving both the public and private health sector in low-income settings; quality of care for children in rural communities; maternal and child health policy analysis; and social innovation in health care. Phyllis led an innovative introduction of the WHO/UNICEF-supported integrated Community Case Management (iCCM) of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea strategy within drug shops in Uganda from 2010–2015, which earned her an award for professional performance in sustainable development and public health, and her research group recognition for social innovation in health-care delivery. She regularly works as an external health systems and child health expert adviser for various international agencies.

Priya Balasubramaniam

Priya Balasubramaniam

Coordinating committee member

Dr Priya Balasubramaniam has over 17 years of experience in academia, large-scale implementation research, as well as in non-profit and government settings. Her interests and expertise are in health systems and services, public policy analysis and health technology innovation directed at strengthening public sector and community health institutions in LMICs. In her current position as Senior Public Health Scientist at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), she directs the Universal Health Coverage Initiative (www.uhcindia.org), one of India’s seminal health policy exercises on health system reform and has co-authored the Government of India’s High Level Expert Group recommendations on universal health coverage as part of the country’s 12th Five Year Plan. Her other projects at PHFI include developing the research agenda for urban health (spanning disease dynamics, health governance and public-private partnerships in health). Dr Balasubramaniam also spearheads multiple grant projects on health systems and health services delivery. This includes a partnership with the Consortia of Affordable Technologies (CamTech) which identifies, mentors and seed funds early stage social impact health innovations in Asia and Africa and the Grand Challenges Grant winner, the Biodiaspora Project that tracks and models infectious and vector-borne disease through human movement patterns. Dr Balasubramaniam is particularly driven by application-oriented evaluative research that has the potential to influence health interventions and change practice patterns within various health system contexts and settings. This includes testing innovations to improve health services and programming, as well as determining causal relationships between a policy and its impact by balancing scientific rigor with methods for enquiry and praxis in dynamic real world settings. Her scope of work in India and South-East Asia has also involved building capacity in the field of evaluation through the incorporation of evaluation philosophy and techniques into core public health training activities. Dr Balasubramaniam holds visiting faculty positions at the Centre of Culture Centred Evaluation, National University of Singapore, University of Texas Health Science Centre, Houston and Keenan Research Centre, St. Michaels Hospital in Toronto, Canada. She has authored several reports, policy briefs as well as peer-reviewed publications over her career as both a clinician and researcher. She serves on a taskforce on Primary Healthcare constituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India and is member of the Technical Review Group on Urban Health Planning formed by the Ministry of Urban Development. She has engaged as adviser and consultant with numerous bilateral and multilateral development agencies like WHO, World Bank, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Dr Balasubramaniam’s academic background includes degrees in Public Policy and Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, International Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston and training in Dental Public Health and Dentistry from the University of Toronto and University of Madras, India.

Gerry Bloom

Gerry Bloom

Coordinating committee member

Gerry Bloom is a physician and health economist. His special interest is the management of health system transition in the context of rapid social and economic change. Areas of particular focus include the changing roles of government, and health system innovations processes of institutional development.

Meenakshi Gautham

Meenakshi Gautham

Coordinating committee member

Meenakshi Gautham is a health systems and policy analyst. Her research portfolio traverses the private formal and informal health sectors, public-private partnerships, and the role of the private sector in reproductive as well as maternal and child health services. She is currently a Research Fellow with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) where she also earned her PhD in Public Health and Policy in 2006. Meenakshi served as the India Country Coordinator for IDEAS, an evaluation, measurement and learning project in maternal and newborn health funded by the Gates Foundation and implemented by the LSHTM in India (Uttar Pradesh), Ethiopia and North East Nigeria. She is currently part of the Merck for Mothers evaluation team at the LSHTM, studying the nature of competition in the private maternal health sector in Uttar Pradesh. Meenakshi is also the Principal Investigator of a study on the drivers of antibiotic use by informal providers in rural West Bengal. Her future interests include developing and evaluating One Health interventions with the heterogenous private health sector to reduce antibiotic resistance.

Desta Lakew

Desta Lakew

Coordinating committee member

Desta Lakew MPH, BA is the Head of Fundraising for Africa at Amref Health Africa. A Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) with more than a decade of fundraising and marketing experience, she is responsible for establishing Amref Health Africa’s Fundraising Directorate for Africa to establish strategic private sector partnerships and promote and support philanthropic giving by Africans for Africa. Desta also serves on the Acumen East Africa Board of Advisors. Prior to joining, she was the Director of Development at the Open Door Foundation based in the USA where she also served as Director of Marketing from 2006. She is a founding board member of the New York-Westchester Chapter of the National Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). She has served as the Director of Development for the Interfaith Council for Action; Assistant Vice President of Maimonides Medical Center and has conducted various consultancies with Business Call to Action, UNDP Secretariat; Public Health Innovation, Kenya and Centre for Multicultural and Community Affairs, Mt Sinai Hospital, New York.

Cicely Thomas

Cicely Thomas

Coordinating committee member

Cicely Thomas is a Senior Program Officer at the Results for Development Institute (R4D), with over ten years of technical and managerial experience working in health systems strengthening in developing country contexts. At R4D, Cicely leads the JLN Private Sector Engagement Collaborative, is the editor of the collaborative’s jointly produced practical guide Engaging the Private Sector in PHC for UHC: Advice from Implementers to Implementers, and also leads R4D’s internal community of practice on private sector engagement. In addition, Cicely leads work in health system strengthening and financing in Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria through USAID’s Maternal Child Survival Program, which includes costing Ghana’s primary healthcare services; conducting a rapid health systems assessment in two states in Nigeria; and building the capacity of district health managers in four regions in Guinea, in partnership with Jhpiego. Cicely also leads the USAID Health Finance and Governance (HFG) project in Guinea providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Health to complete an institutional, organizational, and functional audit, in partnership with Abt. Associates. Before joining R4D, Cicely was a health systems researcher at Mathematica Policy Research where she focused on developing monitoring, learning, and evaluation design plans; conducting data collection and analysis; and providing technical assistance to global health projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and USAID. Cicely received her MA from the University of St. Andrews in Art History and Geography and her MSc in Health, Population, and Society from the London School of Economics.

Uranchimeg Tsevelvaanchig

Uranchimeg Tsevelvaanchig

Coordinating committee member

Uranchimeg Tsevelvaanchig is a physician and PhD candidate at the School of Public Health, University of Queensland, Australia. Her research primarily focuses on regulations of private healthcare providers in LMICs. She previously completed her Master of International Public Health at her current university holding the Australian Leadership Award Scholarship. She has over ten years of work experience in the development and implementation of the national level Health Sector Strategic Plan, the health sector reforms, strengthening sectoral health planning and budgeting capacity and the health sector human resource development in Mongolia. Starting from 2009, the private healthcare sector and public private partnership have become the main interest of her work and research. Her master's thesis examined the potentials of strengthening the local health system in mining areas through the partnerships of the government and mining companies and she has worked as a national consultant on the regulation of private health care and public private partnerships in the health sector of Mongolia.

Publications and resources

'Mobilising Informal Healthcare Providers in India May Help its Response to Covid-19'

Meenakshi Gautham, Gerald Bloom, Priya Balasubramaniam, Catherine Goodman, Birger C Forsberg and Amod Kumar

India has one of the most privatized health systems in the world, but the public sector is leading its response to Covid-19. An effective response to contain the impact of Covid-19 on the rural population must include informal providers.

Indian cities have shown resilience in overcoming challenges. Yet, resilience has not always resulted in improving urban governance and improving lives of urban poor.

An investigation into patent and proprietary medicine vendors’ knowledge of presentation, cause, treatment and prevention of childhood diarrhea, and their recommendation of oral rehydration solution and zinc in the treatment of sick children in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 99 pharmacies across three Zambian provinces. Methods were based on a standardized methodology by WHO and Health Action International in order to explore availability, prices and affordability of essential medicines for diabetes and hypertension treatment in private pharmacies in three provinces of Zambia.

This document provides an outline of the themes discussed at the PSIH TWG Satellite Session held at HSR2018 on Engaging with Private Providers in Low and Middle Income Countries: Strengthening Quality of Care and Effective Regulation

This document provides the agenda of the PSIH TWG Satellite Session held at HSR2018 on Engaging with Private Providers in Low and Middle Income Countries- Strengthening Quality of Care and Effective Regulation.