Globalization and Health
[Accessed 28 June 2014]
Accelerating learning for pro-poor health markets
Sara Bennett, Gina Lagomarsino, Jeff Knezovich and Henry Lucas
Globalization and Health 2014, 10:54 doi:10.1186/1744-8603-10-54
Published: 24 June 2014
Given the rapid evolution of health markets, learning is key to promoting the identification and uptake of health market policies and practices that better serve the needs of the poor. However there are significant challenges to learning about health markets. We discuss the different forms that learning takes, from the development of codified scientific knowledge, through to experience-based learning, all in relationship to health markets.
Notable challenges to learning in health markets include the difficulty of acquiring data from private health care providers, designing evaluations that capture the complex dynamics present within health markets and developing communities of practice that encompass the diverse actors present within health markets, and building trust and mutual understanding across these groups.
The paper proposes experimentation with country-specific market data platforms that can integrate relevant evidence from different data sources, and simultaneously exploring strategies to secure better information on private providers and health markets. Possible approaches to adapting evaluation designs so that they are better able to take account of different and changing contexts as well as producing real time findings are discussed. Finally capturing informal knowledge about health markets is key. Communities of practice that bridge different health market actors can help to share such experience-based knowledge and in so doing, may help to formalize it. More geographically-focused communities of practice are needed, and such communities may be supported by innovation brokers and/or be built around member-based organizations.
Strategic investments in and support to learning about health markets can address some of the challenges experienced to-date, and accelerate learning that supports health markets that serve the poor.
Private sector, for-profit health providers in low and middle income countries: can they reach the poor at scale?
Elizabeth Tung and Sara Bennett
Globalization and Health 2014, 10:52 doi:10.1186/1744-8603-10-52
Published: 24 June 2014
The bottom of the pyramid concept suggests that profit can be made in providing goods and services to poor people, when high volume is combined with low margins. To-date there has been very limited empirical evidence from the health sector concerning the scope and potential for such bottom of the pyramid models. This paper analyzes private for-profit (PFP) providers currently offering services to the poor on a large scale, and assesses the future prospects of bottom of the pyramid models in health.
We searched published and grey literature and databases to identify PFP companies that provided more than 40,000 outpatient visits per year, or who covered 15% or more of a particular type of service in their country. For each included provider, we searched for additional information on location, target market, business model and performance, including quality of care.
Only 10 large scale PFP providers were identified. The majority of these were in South Asia and most provided specialized services such as eye care. The characteristics of the business models of these firms were found to be similar to non-profit providers studied by other analysts (such as Bhattacharya 2010). They pursued social rather than traditional marketing, partnerships with government, low cost/high volume services and cross-subsidization between different market segments. There was a lack of reliable data concerning these providers.
There is very limited evidence to support the notion that large scale bottom of the pyramid models in health offer good prospects for extending services to the poor in the future. In order to be successful PFP providers often require partnerships with government or support from social health insurance schemes. Nonetheless, more reliable and independent data on such schemes is needed.