The private sector is a significant source of healthcare among all populations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but especially for the poor. In developing countries, the private sector—from traditional birth attendants and medicine peddlers to trained pharmacists and doctors—provides over half of all of healthcare. In South and Southeast Asia this number is more than 80%. Until now very little attention by academics or policy makers has focused on this aspect of health systems. The result is that major information gaps exist in nearly all countries, and that policies and regulatory frameworks are ill formed, ineffective, or non-existent in most countries. There is no international institutional leadership addressing this. The Private Sector Healthcare Initiative seeks to fill this gap in country capacity to understand and work with the private sector. One way we do this is through support for Communities of Practice, both program implementers and global networks of academics and researchers working on private sector issues.
The Private Sector Healthcare Initiative serves as secretariat for SF4Health.org, an online community of practice where social franchising stakeholders from around the world exchange information and innovations.