Innovations for equity

The scale and scope of private contributions to health systems

In Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, Health Markets on December 7, 2010 at 4:02 pm

BY HEALTHER KINLAW, GUEST BLOGGER FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO, GLOBAL HEALTH GROUP

The private sector provides more than half of the health services in Africa and Asia, measured both by source of financing for health services, and place of health service delivery.  While new data and better mapping of providers are improving the understanding of the scale of private healthcare services in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), issues of dual public-private employment, undercounting of unregistered practitioners, and public sector distrust remain barriers to a full accounting of the size or the activities of the sector. To encourage filling this knowledge gap, in May 2010, the 63rd World Health Assembly passed a resolution called, “Strengthening the capacity of governments to constructively engage the private sector in providing essential health-care services,” which acknowledged that private providers are a major source of care in most countries, that private provision of services can lead to innovation as well as great challenges,  and that governments in LMICs can more effectively engage with and regulate private providers.

On November 17, 2010 researchers held a session entitled “The scale and scope of private contributions to health systems” as part of the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research (HSR) – Science to Accelerate Universal Health Coverage hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners in Montreux, Switzerland to provide updates of current research on the private sector, highlight innovative financing mechanisms, and address future topics for research. The session was conducted as a “fishbowl conversation” to encourage audience participation; the design includes speaker chairs arranged in an inner circle that represents the fishbowl with one chair left empty for any member of the audience to occupy, at any time, at which point an existing member of the fishbowl must voluntarily leave to free a chair.  Speakers represented a growing group of researchers that have met regularly for the last five years to share findings and advances in research methods for studying the private sector from the perspective of public health, epidemiology, health economics, public policy, and management.  They included:

  • Sara Bennett,  Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (chair)
  • Ruth Berg, Abt Associates
  • Gerry Bloom, Institute of Development Studies
  • Tania Boler, Marie Stopes International
  • Kara Hanson, London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
  • Birger Forsberg, Karolinska Instituet
  • Gina Lagomarsino, Results for Development Institute
  • Dominic Montagu, Global Health Group, University of California, San Francisco
  • Stefan Nachuk, Rockefeller Foundation
  • Gustavo Humberto Nigenda Lopez, National Institute of Public Health, Mexico

Speakers were asked to share their individual and institutional experience on innovative financing mechanisms which included: the Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria (AMFm), several national health insurance experiences, and public-private partnerships for regulation and otherwise.  Speakers also addressed communities of practice and other tool-sharing platforms that aim to make advances towards adoption of standardized methods for assessing private practitioners, their patients, and private funding flows using both secondary data sources and primary data collection, including: Social Franchising 4 Health (SF4Health.org), the Center for Health Market Innovation (healthmarketinnovations.org), Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector (shopsproject.org), The Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, Future Health Systems, Eldis on health systems, id21, and more by the World Bank and others.

Speakers and audience members suggested the following areas for future research: more anthropological studies around private provider behavior, motivations, and incentives; regulating counterfeit drugs within the private sector; consideration of the human resource aspects of the private sector, including recruitment and training, in their work; payment mechanisms and incentiving patients as well as providers; the increase of “payer” attention to the private sector, including governments; the role of purchasing (financial accounting, standards, etc.); the efficacy of various regulatory partnerships; quality of clinical service delivery; quality of chemical sellers (given that one longitudinal study by KEMRI found no significant difference between quality of chemical shops routinely inspected and those not).

Speakers reported on several upcoming literature reviews underway around the private sector: the Global Health Group at UCSF is conducting a Cochrane Review on health outcomes in publicly-vs-privately provided settings in LMICs and a review with Results for Development and the CHMI on informal providers.  At least one systematic review on voucher programs and health is also in progress.

Throughout the session, speakers also emphasized the economic booms occurring in Asia, and the private health sector growth that has quickly followed and stressed that in many significant amounts of delivery and care are happening outside of the regulatory system, including a prominent informal sector in many countries.  Finally, speakers called for greater transparency around public-private partnerships to ensure efficacy and lesson sharing.

Funding from the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research awarded to the Uganda team

In Uncategorized on December 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm

We are delighted to announce that our Uganda Team has received a grant from The Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research from their new Implementation Research Platform.

The Platform has been set up to identify common implementation problems, develop and test practical solutions to these problems and determine the best way of introducing these solutions into the health system and implement at scale.

The study will build on Future Health System’s research into the use of motor bike transport to improve the uptake of maternal health care. It will look at how two types of interventions, one aimed at increasing access to institutional deliveries and care for complications through vouchers, and the other aimed at improving newborn care and uptake of PMTCT through home visits by community health workers, can be integrated and scaled-up within the existing health system in Uganda. It will also explore the effect of implementing the integrated intervention on the proportion of deliveries that occurs in health facilities, and on neonatal mortality.

You can read more about the work in Uganda on our website.

Blog round up

In Global Symposium on Health Systems Research on November 26, 2010 at 12:36 pm

BY KATE HAWKINS, INSTITUTE OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES

We have all arrived home from the Global Symposium and I’ve had a little bit of time to browse web coverage to see what news and views filtered out from Montreux into the public realm. Given the conference organisers’ desire to archive learning from the meeting and reach out to a wide audience to prompt interest in this area of research it’s useful to see what areas captured people’s imagination.

Scidevnet have covered the symposium with regular updates from T V Padma their South Asia Regional Coordinator. Issues covered included:

  • The need to increase research capacity in developing countries and encourage collaborative learning and research into policy
  • Researching complex systems
  • Tackling TB and HIV in Ukraine and Russia through a system wide approach
  • The challenge of tackling health financing
  • Gaps in universal health coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa

Meanwhile in their news section Aisling Irwin covers the announcement made in the closing session of the creation of a new international entity under their headline, “Ailing Global Forum for Health Research joins COHRED.”

We are big fans of the BMJ and were happy to see our friend and colleague Tracey Koehlmoos of ICDDR,B was providing them with updates. She commented,

“In addition to the plethora of great plenary speakers and interesting sessions, is the real benefit of coming together with so many of my global colleagues. For many of us, we fight the war on poverty and disease from the frontlines in developing countries. Some groups work in relative isolation or grouped on the occasional multi-country study. We often only hear of one another or read one another’s research findings through publications.   After exercising early, I sat alone at breakfast the other morning, and within twenty minutes I was surrounded by a large group of South Asian colleagues most of whom had not met previously but we had all heard of one another and some of us had corresponded with one another via e-mail.  It was transformational to sit face to face and talk about our common challenges in the region.  I left the table feeling empowered —and pretty sure that we will figure out a way to work together in near future.”

If you see any other good news reporting on the symposium please do let us know…

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