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Engaging the private sector in response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global surge in demand for health services. In response, all countries are striving to urgently increase their capacity to test, trace and treat COVID-19 patients while also maintaining their essential health services. A full range of health system actors - in both the public and private sector - need to be mobilized to keep health systems working.

WHO advises governments to take a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach in their Covid response working with actors in the private health sector and civil society. Drawing on private sector resources is critical because a wide variety of non-state private providers exist in health systems, from large corporate hospitals to individual practitioners, who could offer extra capacity for response efforts. 

This site offers rapid, real-time, evidence-based, tailored support to countries to improve private sector engagement in their response to the COVID-19 crisis and to help build stronger health systems post- COVID-19

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Drawing on private sector resources and capacity is critical because in many low- and middle- income countries (LMICs), the private health sector provides a significant proportion of health services and products. It is essential for governments to engage the private health sector during the pandemic for numerous reasons:

  • The private health sector owns and manages resources that can contribute to surge capacity for responding to the pandemic: facilities, health professionals, medical equipment and essential supplies such as isolation equipment, ventilators, oxygen, and personal protection equipment (PPE), and to support the maintenance of essential health services.
  • Activities of the private health sector actors must be aligned with national response efforts. For example, all providers public and private should be notifying cases, abiding with clinical protocols for testing, isolation and treatment, and ensuring financial and other barriers to care utilization are eliminated.
  • A challenge in many LMICs is that the public and private health sectors operate in two parallel and separate spheres. The private health sector is often fragmented and disorganized. Ministries of health are often ill prepared to engage with the private sector: they are not equipped with policy frameworks for private sector engagement, have poor information about the private sector, or lack expertise to develop and manage strategies to influence and collaborate.

This space takes the division established in the Action Plan as an organizing framework: plan, space, staff, stuff, system and financing.

Resource House

The private sector represents an important means of providing surge capacity to help respond to the Covid 19 pandemic and to help ensure that essential health services are maintained.

WHO has created a resource house of news and materials about how governments and Ministries of Health are approaching the private health sector as part of their work on the COVID-19 pandemic. 


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