2014 Supplement of Health Policy and Planning


Further advances in knowledge on the role of the private sector in health systems

posted Jul 18, 2014, 8:20 AM by Jeff Knezovich

Birger C Forsberg and Dominic Montagu

This new supplement to Health Policy and Planning is an outcome of the Second Symposium on the Role of the Private Sector in Health Systems held in Toronto on 9 July 2011. The symposium invited researchers and policy makers around the world to participate with presentations on five themes central to the scientific development of understanding on the role of the private sector in health systems.

  • Paying for private care: the private sector and health financing.
  • Good, bad, or indistinguishable: quality of care in the private sector.
  • Human resources for health and the private sector.
  • The private sector role in the overall health system: policy issues in the private sector.
  • Juxtaposing private health care in rich and poor countries.
A number of strong presentations were given at the symposium (The Private Sector in Health 2011).


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Safe motherhood voucher programme coverage of health facility deliveries among poor women in South-western Uganda

posted Jul 18, 2014, 8:17 AM by Jeff Knezovich   [ updated Jul 18, 2014, 8:17 AM ]

Lucy Kanya, Francis Obare, Charlotte Warren, Timothy Abuya, Ian Askew, and Ben Bellows

There has been increased interest in and experimentation with demand-side mechanisms such as the use of vouchers that place purchasing power in the hands of targeted consumers to improve the uptake of healthcare services in low-income settings. A key measure of the success of such interventions is the extent to which the programmes have succeeded in reaching the target populations. This article estimates the coverage of facility deliveries by a maternal health voucher programme in South-western Uganda and examines whether such coverage is correlated with district-level characteristics such as poverty density and the number of contracted facilities. Analysis entails estimating the voucher coverage of health facility deliveries among the general population and poor population (PP) using programme data for 2010, which was the most complete calendar year of implementation of the Uganda safe motherhood (SM) voucher programme. The results show that: (1) the programme paid for 38% of estimated deliveries among the PP in the targeted districts, (2) there was a significant negative correlation between the poverty density in a district and proportions of births to poor women that were covered by the programme and (3) improving coverage of health facility deliveries for poor women is dependent upon increasing the sales and redemption rates. The findings suggest that to the extent that the programme stimulated demand for SM services by new users, it has the potential of increasing facility-based births among poor women in the region. In addition, the significant negative correlation between the poverty density and the proportions of facility-based births to poor women that are covered by the voucher programme suggests that there is need to increase both voucher sales and the rate of redemption to improve coverage in districts with high levels of poverty.

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Expansion in the private sector provision of institutional delivery services and horizontal equity: evidence from Nepal and Bangladesh

posted Jul 18, 2014, 8:16 AM by Jeff Knezovich   [ updated Jul 18, 2014, 8:16 AM ]

David R Hotchkiss, Deepali Godha and Mai Do

Wealth-related inequity in the use of maternal healthcare services continues to be a substantial problem in most low- and middle-income countries. One strategic approach to increase the use of appropriate maternal healthcare services is to encourage the expansion of the role of the private sector. However, critics of such an approach argue that increasing the role of the private sector will lead to increased inequity in the use of maternal healthcare services. This article explores this issue in two South Asian countries that have traditionally had high rates of maternal mortality—Nepal and Bangladesh. The study is based on multiple rounds of nationally representative household survey data collected in Nepal and Bangladesh from 1996 to 2011. The methodology involves estimating a concentration index for each survey to assess changes in wealth-related inequity in the use of institutional delivery assistance over time. The results of the study suggest that the expansion of private sector supply of institutional-based delivery services in Nepal and Bangladesh has not led to increased horizontal inequity. In fact, in both countries, inequity was shown to have decreased over the study period. The study findings also suggest that the provision of government delivery services to the poor protects against increased wealth-related inequity in service use.


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Informal rural healthcare providers in North and South India

posted Jul 18, 2014, 8:12 AM by Jeff Knezovich   [ updated Jul 18, 2014, 8:14 AM ]

Meenakshi Gautham, K M Shyamprasad, Rajesh Singh, Anshi Zachariah, Rajkumari Singh and Gerald Bloom

Rural households in India rely extensively on informal biomedical providers, who lack valid medical qualifications. Their numbers far exceed those of formal providers. Our study reports on the education, knowledge, practices and relationships of informal providers (IPs) in two very different districts: Tehri Garhwal in Uttarakhand (north) and Guntur in Andhra Pradesh (south). We mapped and interviewed IPs in all nine blocks of Tehri and in nine out of 57 blocks in Guntur, and then interviewed a smaller sample in depth (90 IPs in Tehri, 100 in Guntur) about market practices, relationships with the formal sector, and their knowledge of protocol-based management of fever, diarrhoea and respiratory conditions. We evaluated IPs’ performance by observing their interactions with three patients per condition; nine patients per provider. IPs in the two districts had very different educational backgrounds—more years of schooling followed by various informal diplomas in Tehri and more apprenticeships in Guntur, yet their knowledge of management of the three conditions was similar and reasonably high (71% Tehri and 73% Guntur). IPs in Tehri were mostly clinic-based and dispensed a blend of allopathic and indigenous drugs. IPs in Guntur mostly provided door-to-door services and prescribed and dispensed mainly allopathic drugs. In Guntur, formal private doctors were important referral providers (with commissions) and source of new knowledge for IPs. At both sites, IPs prescribed inappropriate drugs, but the use of injections and antibiotics was higher in Guntur. Guntur IPs were well organized in state and block level associations that had successfully lobbied for a state government registration and training for themselves. We find that IPs are firmly established in rural India but their role has grown and evolved differently in different market settings. Interventions need to be tailored differently keeping in view these unique features.

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Unravelling the quality of HIV counselling and testing services in the private and public sectors in Zambia

posted Jul 18, 2014, 8:10 AM by Jeff Knezovich   [ updated Jul 18, 2014, 8:10 AM ]

Ilana Ron Levey and Wenjuan Wang

Background Despite the substantial investment for providing HIV counselling and testing (VCT) services in Zambia, there has been little effort to systematically evaluate the quality of VCT services provided by various types of health providers. This study, conducted in 2009, examines VCT in the public and private sectors including private for-profit and NGO/faith-based sectors in Copperbelt and Luapula.

Methods The study used five primary data collection methods to gauge quality of VCT services: closed-ended client interviews with clients exiting VCT sites; open-ended client interviews; interviews with facility managers; review of service statistics; and an observation of the physical environment for VCT by site. Over 400 clients and 87 facility managers were interviewed from almost 90 facilities. Sites were randomly selected and results are generalizable at the provincial level.

Results The study shows concerning levels of underperformance in VCT services across the sectors. It reveals serious underperformance in counselling about key risk-reduction methods. Less than one-third of clients received counselling on reducing number of sexual partners and only approximately 5% of clients received counselling about disclosing test results to partners. In terms of client profiles, the NGO sector attracts the most educated clients and less educated Zambians seek VCT services at very low rates (7%). The private for-profit performs equally or sometimes better than other sectors even though this sector is not adequately integrated into the Zambian national response to HIV.

Conclusion The private for-profit sector provides VCT services on par in quality with the other sectors. Most clients did not receive counselling on partner reduction or disclosure of HIV test results to partners. In a generalized HIV epidemic where multiple concurrent sexual partners are a significant problem for transmitting the disease, risk-reduction methods and discussion should be a main focus of pre-test and post-test counselling.


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Who gives birth in private facilities in Asia? A look at six countries

posted Jul 18, 2014, 8:05 AM by Jeff Knezovich   [ updated Jul 18, 2014, 8:06 AM ]

Amanda M Pomeroy, Marge Koblinsky and Soumya Alva

Over the past two decades, multilateral organizations have encouraged increased engagement with private healthcare providers in developing countries. As these efforts progress, there are concerns regarding how private delivery care may effect maternal health outcomes. Currently available data do not allow for an in-depth study of the direct effect of increasing private sector use on maternal health across countries. As a first step, however, we use demographic and health surveys (DHS) data to (1) examine trends in growth of delivery care provided by private facilities and (2) describe who is using the private sector within the healthcare system. As Asia has shown strong increases in institutional coverage of delivery care in the last decade, we will examine trends in six Asian countries. We hypothesize that if the private sector competes for clients based on perceived quality, their clientele will be wealthier, more educated and live in an area where there are enough health facilities to allow for competition. We test this hypothesis by examining factors of socio-demographic, economic and physical access and actual/perceived need related to a mother’s choice to deliver in a health facility and then, among women delivering in a facility, their use of a private provider. Results show a significant trend towards greater use of private sector delivery care over the last decade. Wealth and education are related to private sector delivery care in about half of our countries, but are not as universally related to use as we would expect. A previous private facility birth predicted repeat private facility use across nearly all countries. In two countries (Cambodia and India), primiparity also predicted private facility use. More in-depth work is needed to truly understand the behaviour of the private sector in these countries; these results warn against making generalizations about private sector delivery care.

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