Elevating the voice of the private provider at the International Family Planning Conference
Among the chorus of voices at the widely attended #NotWithoutFP virtual forum of the International Conference on Family Planning, that of the private health sector was loud and clear. SHOPS Plus, one of the event’s sponsors, elevated the private sector voice at sessions, in blog posts, and in two side events.
Dr. Isseu Diop Touré outlined how SHOPS Plus in Senegal facilitated the integration of the private health sector in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The project worked on multiple fronts to ensure the private sector had a voice in decision making at all levels of the health system and built the capacity of private providers to manage the pandemic while continuing to maintain access to critical services like family planning. SHOPS Plus established a national and 14 regional private sector taskforces to engage the private sector in the government’s response. The project also introduced program adaptations to maintain service delivery and sales of essential commodities as many clients flocked to the private sector while the public sector was focused on COVID detection and treatment.
Despite the success of the project, Dr. Touré observed that the private sector continues to struggle to be heard. Some regions were reluctant to engage the private sector, a missed opportunity for public-private coordination and partnership.
Voice of private providers
The diversity of the private health sector and the populations it serves were central themes in a SHOPS Plus video that premiered during the private sector session on the second day of the virtual forum. At the watch party the following day, one of the voices that attracted attention was that of the co-developer of HelloJubi, an award-winning chatbot used in India to inform youth about healthy lifestyles. The chatbot serves as bridge between youth and health care providers because it provides information in a safe, private environment for young people in the best place to find them: on their phones.
Watch a video on how the SHOPS Plus project in India uses social and behavior change communication with youth.
Tea with the pros
SHOPS Plus hosted a tea following the virtual forum, providing an opportunity to chat informally with five private health sector experts. Here are just a few highlights from the conversation.
- Michele Weinberger, modeling and segmentation advisor, talked about what the data say and why we should think about private sector provision of family planning. Referring to Private Sector Counts, she pointed out that while there is variation by country, overall, one in three users get their contraceptive methods in the private sector.
- Caroline Quijada, deputy director, explained what is meant by a healthy family planning market. As an example of a strategy to foster a health market she cited the introduction of a progestin-only pill in Afghanistan’s private sector, which enabled more women to achieve their reproductive intentions. In the first 12 months of sales and despite challenges of the pandemic, the product accounts for 1.3 percent of the method mix.
- Ignacio Estevez, access to finance director, pointed out challenges banks face when loaning to the health sector. He commented on SHOPS Plus activities working with actors on both sides of this issue: banks and private providers in Madagascar, Senegal and Tanzania.
- Jeanna Holtz, health finance director, author of a recent blog post on universal health coverage and family planning, emphasized the need to examine exactly who is covered; what services are covered; and what proportion of cost is covered. She also pointed out the value of extending contracting to small and medium practices.
- Mbogo Bunyi, senior private sector advisor, explained what motivates commercial entities to invest in family planning, emphasizing the value businesses place on risk mitigation and stability, and how the health care of employees and the communities where they operate can affect the bottom line.
About 100 people stopped by the SHOPS Plus booth where they could view a video on the India’s team highly successful video on strategies to engage youth, get quick access to two interactive tools, Private Sector Counts and FP Market Analyzer, and see some of the project’s latest publications.
While the International Conference on Family Planning has long been a supporter of the private health sector, this is the first time the conference had a sub-committee focused on the private sector. With its theme of universal health coverage and family planning, the virtual forum made clear that the private sector plays a critical role.