11 May 2020

African Healthcare Federation and WHO are organising a webinar on 16 May 2020.

Health systems consist of all the people and actions whose primary purpose is to improve health – whether they are in the public or the private sector. They may be integrated and centrally directed, but often they are not. Historically, limited attention has been paid to the range of products and services delivered in the private health sector, or the quality of the outputs delivered (e.g. their safety, appropriateness and efficacy), or their prices (which often are paid by users directly out of pocket).

This situation needs to change. If countries are to reach their health goals, countries need to harness all available resources for achieving and sustaining health goals, and not only that part over which the public sector has formal control. Mindful of this need for change, WHO has developed a programme of work centered around supporting countries to engage their private sector in service of their national health objectives.

In 2019, WHO has convened an Advisory Group on the Governance of the Private Sector for UHC to act as an advisory body to WHO about developing and implementing governance and regulatory arrangements for managing private sector service delivery for UHC. The Advisory Group has developed a draft roadmap Engaging the private health sector for Universal Health Coverage which supports a new way of doing business for health system governance.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a surge in healthcare demand in all affected countries. To respond to this, the full range of health system actors – in both the public and private health sector – need to be mobilized. Engaging with the private sector during the pandemic is critical as: (i) in many low- and middle- income countries (LMICs), the private health sector provides a significant proportion of health services and products; (ii) it owns and manages resources that can contribute to surge capacity for responding to the pandemic; (iii) its activities must be aligned with national response efforts.

In this context, WHO has accelerated its work on private sector engagement in order to support countries to bring the private sector into the COVID-19 response. An Action Plan has been developed aiming to create a single, unified and coherent response to the COVID-19 pandemic that integrates the public and private health sectors. This Action Plan is now supplemented with an analysis of the policy challenges that LMICs are facing in enabling the domestic private health sector to support the national response to COVID-19. This analysis, called Enabling the Private Health Sector in the National Response to COVID-19: Six Current Policy Challenges, identifies and frames six policy challenges, including:

  1. Countries are unsure of how best to include the private sector in planning for the national response effort;
  2. Resource-based planning cannot take place as critical data on private sector resources and capacity are not held by the government;
  3. The private health sector lacks certain inputs needed for it to play a role as an effective partner for the government in the response;
  4. Emergency legislation, compounded by weak systems and regulation, can limit the private sector’s role;
  5. Countries are unsure of whether, or how best to, reimburse the private sector for health services provided during the outbreak; and
  6. Private healthcare businesses are exposed to significant financial losses at this time, but governments lack clear criteria for providing support.

On Saturday 16th May 2020 - 4.00 to 5.30pm (EAT), the webinar A public-private dialogue: how can we work together to combat COVID-19 in Africa will discuss how the Action Plan and the identified policy challenges play out in the WHO AFRO region. The webinar will include interventions from Dr Matshidiso Moeti (WHO Regional Director for Africa), M. David Clarke (WHO HQ Team Leader HGF), and Dr Amit N. Thakker (President Africa Healthcare Federation).

Register here for the webinar

Read the latest blog on mobilising the private sector for the COVID-19 response.

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