Getting Down to Business: Expanding the Private Commercial Sector’s Role in Meeting Reproductive Health Needs

James E. Rosen and Shanti R. Conly

Governments in developing countries have an important role to play in making reproductive health products and services affordable for the poor and other under-served groups. Accordingly, efforts to improve access to family planning and other reproductive health care have focused primarily on the public sector.However, the private for-profit sector in these countries also has enormous potential to help meet the increasing demand for good quality reproductive health care. Many developing country households earn enough to bear all or part of their health care costs, and are willing to pay for the better quality and more efficient care offered by private as compared to public health facilities. Encouraging a greater role for the private sector can allow governments to refocus their efforts on reaching the poorest and most remote communities.

The widening gap between stagnating public funding and the rapidly increasing demand for reproductive health care requires that developing nations move quickly to tap the potential of the private sector. Yet, most countries are not fully utilizing the private sector, either as a source of additional financial resources for reproductive health or as an efficient provider of services and commodities.

This study examines how developing country governments and international donors can stimulate private sector involvement in the reproductive health arena, with a particular emphasis on improving the availability of commodities such as contraceptives, drugs for treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and nutritional supplements. The report aims to help policymakers in both developing and donor countries better understand the crucial role of private business in expanding access to reproductive health care.

Policymakers generally have little control over many demographic and social factors in the short term. However, governments as well as international donors can have substantial influence over the climate for private sector involvement in reproductive health care over the medium and long term.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1: Improving Reproductive Health: The Importance of the Private Sector
CHAPTER 2: The Private For-Profit Sector’s Current Contribution to Reproductive Health Care
CHAPTER 3: Key Factors Affecting Commercial Sector Involvement
CHAPTER 4: Strategies to Expand the Role of the Commercial Sector
CHAPTER 5: Forging a New Relationship Between the Public and Private Sectors