Report: WHO workshop on Strengthening quality of care for mothers, newborns and children by engaging the private sector

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During the last decade, many low and middle income countries (LMIC) have witnessed a rapidly growing private sector engaged in delivering essential health services. An analysis of 70 countries showed that the private health sector is responsible for providing over one-third of maternal health services (1). Across LMICs, the private health sector accounts for a 44% mean market share among users of antenatal care and a 40% mean market share for delivery care (2). With an increasing proportion of mothers and newborns accessing care in the private sector, countries will not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through actions in public sector service delivery alone; hence, strengthening the engagement of the private sector is becoming more important in the development and SDGs context, including delivery of quality services for maternal, newborn and child care (MNCH) (3). However, to date many challenges undermine this work, including poor governance, weak knowledge and limited experience about the how the public and private sectors can work together to achieve a national health goals.

In response, the WHO MCA-based Network secretariat, supported by a project focused technical advisory group (2019-2021) composed of representatives of Network countries, researchers, implementers and experts in the area of private sector service delivery and MNCH, initiated an exploratory work on how to enhance the private sector engagement to deliver quality maternal and newborn health services with an aim of accelerating the achievement of SDGs. As part of this exploration, the MCA embarked in a process of reviewing and synthesizing evidence and experience from implementation, while engaging with three Network countries that were willing to explore the role of private sector in MNH service delivery.

Objectives of the meeting

The aim of the meeting was to share WHO guidance and tools and build awareness on how to include and optimize engagement of the private sector to improve the quality of maternal, newborn and child health care. More specifically the meeting aimed to:

  • Familiarize participants on the WHO strategy “Engaging the private health service delivery sector through governance in mixed health systems”
  • Share country experiences on progress made in engaging private sector in delivering quality MNCH services
  • Provide an update on approaches and tools developed for engaging private sector in delivering quality maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) services
  • Discuss next steps, including need for WHO support in engaging private sector in delivering quality MNCH services

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