Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Private Sector & Public Health

At last week’s APHA (American Public Health Association) Annual Meeting, I attended a session titled “The Role and Contribution of the Private Sector in Realizing Health Sector Reform”. With all the current emphasis on public-private partnerships, I was disappointed to see only 20 attendees at a conference with 14,000 participants (to put this in perspective, attendees were seated on the floor at 4 other sessions I attended – seating capacity was typically 75-100).

The 3 panelists – Barbara Addy (USAID, Global Development Alliance), Romano Fernandes (Senior Advisor, Constella Futures/AFFORD, Uganda), and Dr. Greg Allgood (Procter & Gamble) – each spoke about different efforts to develop partnerships between the private sector and government/NGOs in order to improve public health in developing countries.

In discussing USAID’s partnerships with firms as diverse as Kraft Foods, Bayer, and ExxonMobil, Ms. Addy spoke of similar activities at other development agencies, including DFID (UK), JICA (Japan), and AFD (France).

Mr. Fernandes presented AFFORD as a health marketing initiative. They partner with domestic producers of health-related products (e.g. 4-6 Kampala-based pharmaceutical manufacturers of ACTs – artemisinin-based combination therapy for malaria) in order to brand and distribute the products. Currently, they work in HIV/AIDS, malaria, family planning, and child survival. The most interesting point Mr. Fernandes made was that it is necessary to phase out ineffective drugs to create new opportunities in the markteplace for the private sector. As long as the ineffective drugs are stocked by small drug shops and community-based distributors, there is a barrier to entry.

Dr. Allgood presented Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) work on PUR, a point-of-use water treatment system (PUR was dicussed in an earlier post). As a flocculant-disinfectant, PUR is able to clean even heavily sedimented (turbid) water – the flocculant causes the sediment to coagulate, while the disinfectant kills harmful organisms. This project has led to 2 siginificantly new business practices for P&G: (1) considering emergency relief as a market, and (2) letting an NGO manage a P&G brand. As a consumer products company, Dr. Allgood indicated a key strength of P&G is understanding people and their relation to products such as PUR. As an example, inside the household, they have observed “water segmentation” – their product is used primarily for the most vulnerable, young children, the elderly, and PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS).

Here is the session abstract:

Because of reduced donor support to developing countries and due to a decrease in development-focused funds from within countries’ own ministries, the private sector is being recognized as an important contributor to realizing reform goals that would achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in healthcare delivery. The objective of this panel is to demonstrate the validity of engaging the private sector in the strategic planning and implementation of health sector reform and to further demonstrate the effective contribution that the private sector has made to-date in realizing health reform goals in developing countries. Panelists will discuss various perspectives regarding the politics and protocols for involving the private sector in the delivery of health services. Illustrative examples will include: Global Development Alliances (GDA) in health; Foundation investments in health; Commercial Sector Investments in health; and Motivating and engaging host country private sector counterparts. The outcome of these discussions should further encourage greater private sector involvement in health sector reform.

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Written by Jaspal

November 13, 2006 at 1:42 pm

One Response

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  1. […] The latest issue of Fortune profiles 7 recent devices and ideas that according to them are “remaking our world”. I am not sure if it because I am focusing on this type of thing, but it seems that the mainstream press is paying much more attention to social issues and various private sector focused entities, like Fortune Magazine, are profiling great people and innovations that are helping society. Or it could simply be that as the private sector gets increasingly involved the coverage is also increasing. In my opinion, public health is shamefully far behind in connecting with and realizing the use of the private sector (and technology) in global health efforts. There is a huge chasm between the business world and public health (see Jaspal’s post on the APHA private sector session). Although this may be slowly changing. […]


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