Despite decades of investment, health care facilities in developing countries are dilapidated, health systems are weak, and few people have routine access to quality services. Government services are unable to keep up. Instead, the majority of health services are delivered by private providers—hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, midwives, traditional healers and informal sellers of drugs and indigenous medicines. These providers deliver the majority of babies, treat the majority of malaria and diarrhea, and cure—or kill—the majority of those who are ill in Asia and Africa.
The Global Health Group believes that the private sector—from corporate financiers, to private drug outlets, to branded networks of private providers—represent a critical untapped source of innovation, resources and capacity to strengthen health services. Yet their potential is not well understood, and policies and programs to leverage private providers in support of public health goals are nearly non-existent.
Since 2008, the Global Health Group’s Private Sector Healthcare Initiative has worked to understand and articulate the role of the private sector in strengthening health systems, and to identify and encourage innovative models of engagement. Through research, documentation, convening and dissemination, we have radically increased understanding of the wide array of private actors, and the extent to which they are accessed by different economic groups.
The Global Health Group has become widely recognized as a leader in research on the private sector; funders, policymakers and country governments increasingly look to us for expertise and advice. Research in this previously under-appreciated area is now being conducted at institutions across the globe, and funders are paying attention. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Department for International Development (UK), and USAID have allocated major funding to start new programs that leverage the private sector, following models defined, documented and championed by the Global Health Group.