Why, How Market Dynamics Matters: Interventions can improve health outcomes, but it’s a time-consuming and complex process

PSI is implementing a five-country project, funded by UNITAID, to create a private sector market for malaria rapid diagnostic tests. Otieno Chemist, left, is one of the registered private sector outlets in Kenya. Photo courtesy of UNITAID

By Brian Smith, originally posted at NextBillion.net.

Editor’s note: NextBillion Health Care has launched a new Market Dynamics initiative to encourage discussion about how markets impact health outcomes.

Why are so many global public health experts talking about “market dynamics” these days?

Whether we call it “market shaping” or “market facilitation” or the “total market approach,” there is a large and growing interest in the idea that we’ll be more effective in improving health outcomes at the base of the pyramid if we frame challenges in terms of markets. Why?

Getting to know PSI’s market-based sanitation work in India: Part 1 – Beyond rocket science

Dr. Desmond Chavasse (far right), visiting with PSI's 3SI program to support sustainable sanitation in India.

It is remarkable that while India routinely launches satellites into space, half of its population (600 million) does not have access to a toilet. If the Indian state of Bihar were a country, it would have the 14th highest population in the world and yet only 18 percent of its households have a toilet.

Strong health systems: “The secret ingredient”

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As a global health community, we have the skills and know-how to accomplish these goals, but we must work together and recognize that the ‘secret ingredient’ that binds all of our collective knowledge, skills and interventions is a strong health system. The Lancet Commission on Investing in Health reported this past year that such goals are indeed feasible and would bring about a grand convergence in life expectancy between poor and rich nations in our lifetime. The required investment would pay off 9 to 20 times in full-income returns, and to succeed, half of the resources should be used to strengthen health systems – from human resources to better governance of the sector’s public and private components.

Smart investments in maternal health

From the Impact Magazine-Devex survey of over 1,000 global health professionals: 85 percent believe public-private partnerships are important or extremely important.

Impact interviews Dr. Naveen Rao, lead of Merck for Mothers. In 2011, Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, created Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500 million initiative to reduce maternal mortality globally. Rao shares his thoughts on public-private partnerships and the importance of engaging local partners in efforts to improve maternal health.

Are we leaving the private sector out of health systems strengthening?

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Health system strengthening is widely recognized as the key to making progress toward the Millennium Development Goals and post-2015 successors. So it came as no surprise that development professionals who responded to the Devex survey identified it as a ‘best buy’ in global health. But to get the most out of this best buy, we should move beyond what is too narrow a definition of health system strengthening.

Best Buys for Global Health: Event video and conversation

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Marking the launch of the Spring edition of PSI’s Impact Magazine, “The Best Buys Issue: Where to Invest in Global Health in 2014,” two panels of global health industry leaders gathered to discuss what are the best buys for global health. View the video of the full event, and the conversation on Twitter.  Here’s more information about the event, hosted in partnership with PATH, Devex, and the Center for Global Development, with support from the Merck for Mothers Program.

Let’s talk about the Best Buys for Global Health

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Starting today and culminating on March 19th at the Center for Global Development, we hope you’ll join a conversation along with experts from implementing agencies, governments, research institutions, and the private sector to  discuss and debate what makes a “best buy” in global health.

USAID and P&G kick-off Global Development Alliance to improve health in Myanmar

Parents and children of North Okkalapa Township, outside Burma's capital Rangoon on Feb. 27, 2014, listen intently to a demonstration on proper safe water and hygiene practices. In Burma USAID and Procter and Gamble partner to provide clean drinking water and promote sanitation practices for some of the country's most vulnerable. (Image credit: Kelly Ramundo/USAID)

Administrator Raj Shah this week helped deliver the first liter of clean drinking water under a Global Development Alliance (GDA) between the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Procter & Gamble (P&G) to improve health in Myanmar.

Over the next two years, USAID and P&G will make joint investments of at least $2 million on health projects aimed at providing clean drinking water through provision of P&G Purifier of Water packets, promoting better hygiene behaviors;,and building capability to deliver improved health services to mothers and children. These projects will be implemented on the ground by PSI.