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Event Report - Private Sector Engagement in the Health Sector in India

Posted on 22 November 2019

This Global Health Histories seminar took place last month at Brookings India (New Delhi), where speakers gathered to discuss how the public and private health sectors might collaborate to meet India’s health needs.

This seminar had representions from academic, public, private, and research institutions and together outlined the current health landscape in India and opportunities for public-private partnerships.

Professor Venkat Raman from the Faculty of Management Studies at the University of Delhi opened the seminar with a detailed presentation on the importance of engaging with the private sector. He explained that as more people are seeking private care, the sector has grown rapidly. Most services are owner-operated and unregulated and therefore there is incomplete information on the number and types of care available. Next steps, he said, should involve bridging the public-private gap and creating formal policies for cross-sector engagement.

Pompy Sridhar directs the India program for MSD for Mothers, a global initiative by Merck & Co. to prevent maternal deaths. Their work, she explained, is an example of how funding and private sector expertise can be used for global health challenges. She ended her presentation acknowledging that building trust between sectors is key.

Dr Indu Bhushan is the CEO of National Health Authority, which runs one of the world’s largest health assurance schemes. In his view, the health care gap in India will grow as the population ages, noncommunicable diseases rise, and higher incomes and improved technology increase demand. Dr Bhushan ended his presentation proposing key questions including how the government can be incentivised to support the poor and how to ensure the private sector provides quality services.

Director of Research at Brookings India Dr Shamika Ravi summed up the presentations acknowledging that private health care is now permanently embedded in India. The government is gradually developing a better understanding of these services and introducing improved regulation. In this way, Ravi said, the market will function better and the two sectors can support each other.

A recording of the discussion can be found here. For the Q&A section, click this link

Global Health Histories seminars are made possible by the Wellcome Trust and we continue to be grateful for their support. We would also like to thank our speakers and Brookings India for hosting the event, and we look forward to more engagements in the future.

Event report by Alexandra Bradbury (MA, Medical History and Humanities, University of York).