All too often public health policymakers and officials tend to treat private sector healthcare providers as either a distraction, an impediment or even an active adversary. But that’s shortsighted, according to Novartis head of social business Harald Nusser and Jeffrey Sturchio, CEO at Rabin Martin, a global health strategy consulting firm, who point out in CapX that the private sector is a valuable potential ally – and in fact the only way that the world can achieve its worthy goal of universal healthcare.
- The UN General Assembly is preparing to issues a new set of commitments for healthcare provision, due for a vote this fall.
- Most countries have also officially promised to offer universal health coverage, either in international treaties or in their own constitutions.
- But the actual implementation of these goals remains woefully behind, across the developed and developing worlds alike. Damning stat: “World Health Organisation reports that around 100 million people are forced into poverty every year by catastrophic medical expenses.”
- In a nutshell: “It’s critical to remember that countries aren’t creating new health systems from scratch. They’re building on systems already in place, and that means strengthening health systems in which the private sector is currently playing an essential role in the delivery of care… In most lower-income countries, 30-80% of health services are delivered through the private sector.”
- Nusser notes multiple examples of effective public-private hybrid partnerships, including the Utkrisht Impact Bond, the world’s first “health development impact bond,” which created financial instruments that reward improved healthcare outcomes and, and Novartis’ own work in Cameroon with the Baptist Convention Health Services, a minority faith-based organization, to offer affordable drugs as well as training for medical personnel to screen and treat chronic diseases.
- Nusser also cautions that government will always have a stewardship role: “ Of course, governments will still need to play a role as stewards of the health system overall, with appropriate regulations and rules of the road. But this needn’t be a barrier to greater engagement with the private sector to help achieve UHC.”