The concept of ‘water operator partnerships’ (WOPs) has increasingly been promoted as a means to improving water services provision in developing countries. The International Water Association (IWA)defines WOPs as ‘any formal or informal collaboration or structured partnership aimed at capacity building on a not-for-profit basis. In the WOPs approach emphasis is on capacitating (rather than replacing) the public organisation. Researchers assessed the potential of such partnerships as a ‘model’ for contributing to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by focusing on four water utilities in Mozambique. Although, the study found these partnerships to be successful, their replicability and potential for scale up was found to be quite limited. The study found that WOPs depended for success on the availability of investment funds, and the level of commitment to the partnership, both financial commitment and time and effort of the organisations involved.
This article argues that, with a complicated problem such as improving health care under constrained resources, two heads are better than one. The public and private sectors have different strengths and weaknesses, and a judicious blending of the two can produce optimal results. Indeed, there is no health system that is entirely public or private. The reality is that, in most low-income countries, most people receive most of their care from the broadly defined private sector. About 60% of the US$16.7 billion spent on health in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005 was private, most of it out-of-pocket spending by individuals, and about half of this went to private providers. Some countries are now exploring pluralistic models that partner with the private sector to serve public policy goals. These models should be encouraged and supported.
Improving the quality of private health care provision in developing countries is of major importance to the livelihoods of poor people. This article was published in the ‘Bulletin of the World Health Organisation’ and summarises how the activities of the private health sector in low-income countries can be influenced so that national health objectives are met. The article begins with an overview of the characteristics of the private health sector in developing countries. It continues with a summary of how to improve both the supply and the demand for private health care. To close, the authors list the possibilities available to governments for improved stewardship of the private sector.
Anne Mills, Health Policy Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Ruairi Brugha, Kara Hanson, Barbara McPake. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2002;80(4):325-330. April 2002. Available on PDF. A very large private health sector exists in low-income countries. It consists of a great variety of providers and is used by a wide cross-section of the population. There are substantial concerns about the quality of care given, especially at the more informal end of the range of providers. This is particularly true for diseases of public health importance such as tuberculosis, malaria, and sexually transmitted infections. How can the activities of the private sector in these countries be influenced so that they help to meet national health objectives? Although the evidence base is not good, there is a fair amount of information on the types of intervention that are most successful in directly influencing the behaviour of providers and on what might be the necessary conditions for success. There is much less evidence, however, of effective approaches to interventions on the demand side and policies that involve strengthening the purchasing and regulatory roles of governments.
Private health care in low-income and middle-income countries is noted to be extensive and heterogeneous, ranging from medicine sellers, through millions of independent practitioners—both unlicensed and licensed—to corporate hospital chains and large private insurers. Policies for universal health coverage (UHC) must address this complex private sector. However, no agreed measures exist to assess the scale and scope of the private health sector in these countries, and policy makers tasked with managing and regulating mixed health systems struggle to identify the key features of their private sectors. In this paper, the authors propose a set of metrics, drawn from existing data that can form a starting point for policy makers to identify the structure and dynamics of private provision in their particular mixed health systems; that is, to identify the consequences of specific structures, the drivers of change, and levers available to improve efficiency and outcomes. The central message is that private sectors cannot be understood except within their context of mixed health systems since private and public sectors interact. The authors develop an illustrative and partial country typology, using the metrics and other country information, to illustrate how the scale and operation of the public sector can shape the private sector's structure and behaviour, and vice versa.
User fees are an increasingly common component of public health financing. The intention is to provide patients with a cheaper but high quality alternative to private healthcare. But does it work? What is the impact on the poorest households? Do poor people still use public health services when they have to pay fees?
Until very recently, the healthcare sector in developed industrialised countries consisted largely of public services for curative and preventive care provided by governments and the regulated private sector. These services were organised into different levels from primary care facilities up to tertiary hospitals providing specialist care, with a referral mechanism from one level to the next. But in many low and middle income countries healthcare has moved away from this model. People, including many of the poor, use a wide range of different service providers, all of which they have to pay. The healthcare sector increasingly resembles an unregulated marketplace rather than an organised public service. How has this come about, what does this marketplace look like and what does it mean for health policy and planning?
Paper prepared for WHO’s Commission on Macroeconomics and Health by Adam Wagstaff The World Bank, The University of Sussex, UK
There are three key levels of government action—the macro level, the health system, and the micro level. Government decisions and actions at each level influence the amount households pay for their health care (financing), and the quantity, quality and type of services they receive (delivery). At the macro level, governments decide how much to spend on health care (and related services) and where, and how to raise the revenues to finance them. At the system level, they decide the mode of service delivery and how to regulate the private sector, and how much to charge for different services and how far to exempt the poor from fees. At the micro level, they influence the accountability of providers and the services and interventions they deliver, and how best to implement facility-based revenue collection schemes. There are, in short, many ways that governments can potentially influence both health gaps between the poor and better-off, and the degree to which poor households are affected disproportionately by the costs of health services.
The main objectives of this study were to document the role of the private for-profit sector in voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) service delivery and to establish whether there are significant differences in the quality of VCT services, particularly in counseling and referral practices, between public, private for-profit, non-governmental (NGO) and mission health providers. Copperbelt and Luapula were selected, which are urban and rural provinces. HIV prevalence among adults is approximately 17% in Copperbelt and 13% in Luapula. Geographic proximity and the cost of transportation were found to be important factors for clients in selecting a facility, as well as the specialised reputations of NGOs. Clients were drawn to the private sector because of its ability to offer high-quality general health services, in comparison with other medical sectors. This finding suggests that the private sector may be uniquely positioned to pilot more extensive integrated HIV services. However, no one sector emerged as providing overwhelmingly higher quality services than another and, overall, rural sites performed on par in quality with the urban sites. However, the findings revealed less than optimal counseling practices across the sectors.
As evidence about the importance of the private sector in healthcare delivery accumulates, emphasis is being placed on better understanding the opportunities and risks it creates. Private providers are often key sources of treatment for diseases of public health importance, such as malaria, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and tuberculosis (TB). They are also an important source of care for poor people, who may use private providers nearly as much as better-off groups. But there are concerns about their quality and affordability.