While most countries have pledged to establish universal healthcare (UHC) – typically in their constitutions or as part of international treaties – it’s no surprise that when it comes to implementation, reality generally lags far behind promises on paper. However there’s an important potential force multiplier: cooperation with the private sector, all too often dismissed by public health planners and policymakers in their pursuit of UHC. That’s the argument advanced by Jörg Reinhardt, chairman of the board of Novartis, in an op-ed for Project Syndicate, pointing to the successful example of countries including Vietnam, where a hybrid public-private approach has managed to achieve 87.5% coverage for health insurance, with 97% of children receiving immunizations and mortality down 75% from 1990 – all despite having a per capita income of under $2,500.
- Like many developed and developing nations alike, much of the country’s recent healthcare strategy has hinged on shifting responsibility and patient burdens on to local authorities whenever possible, to ease overburdening of central facilities.
- This strategy, created in collaboration with Harvard Medical School and Novartis, also entailed forward-thinking use of technology as well as provincial and community-level partnerships with local healthcare providers, including those in the private sector.
- One such public-private partnership, called Cùng Sông Khòe, has reached over 570,000 people in underserved areas since 2012, providing healthcare and education about chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, which increasingly affect developing countries.
- Looking ahead, public-private partnerships will be key to tackling Vietnam’s looming health issues, especially an aging population as birthrates fall in tandem with economic development.