PSP - Private Sector Programme in Health


The private sector constitutes a large and important source of care for many people in low- and middle-income countries, not least the poor. Yet, the private sector has often been overlooked when trying to improve health systems in poor countries. Information on the scope of the private health care sector and the services it provides, including their quality, has often been missing. The Private Sector Programme in Health - PSP - is a research and policy network for those interested in issues related to the non-state health sector in low- and middle-income countries. The ambition of PSP is to be at the forefront of the international research and policy dialogue on these issues. The programme promotes networking and exchange between research institutions, policy makers, international organizations and the private sector for a nuanced and constructive debate on how best to utilise the private health care sector to reach national health objectives.


The aim of the program is to strengthen health systems' performance and their outcome in terms of improved health for all by exploring the non-state (private) health sector, its role in service delivery in low- and middle-income countries and how it can be involved in providing adequate health care to people, in particular those in most need.


The PSP seeks to fill a knowledge gap by supporting descriptive and analytical studies of the private sector in low- and middle-income countries and by communicating facts, new knowledge and policy stands on private health sector development. In earlier stages of the program, methods were focused on technical tools development, technical support to project proposal development in countries and mobilization of financial support for country studies. After country studies were completed, the program has worked more on dissemination of information through publications and active participation in conferences and meetings.


From 2002-2008 the PSP, in collaboration with eight partner institutions, undertook extensive research on the role of the private sector in health. The programme was coordinated by the Division of Global Health (IHCAR) at Karolinska Institutet, in collaboration with the International Health Systems Program (IHSP) at Harvard School of Public Health.

During the first phase of the programme the work was focused on facilitating development of country specific research proposals that corresponded to the overall programme objectives and to secure comparability between the country projects. For this, a generic research protocol and a toolkit for mapping public and private providers were developed by the IHCAR/IHSP team.

Country specific research proposals were developed by the partner institutions in China, Vietnam, India, Uganda and Zambia. Extensive research was conducted and the program generated a wealth of information on the private sector in the countries. Results were presented at conferences in San Francisco, Barcelona, Jinan (China), Copenhagen, Geneva and Washington. In 2009, the program took an initiative to a conference on the role of the private sector in Beijing. The conference preceded the 7th World Congress of the International Health Economics Association (iHEA) and it was attended by some hundred scholars in the field. Selected papers from the conference are currently in the process of being published in a special supplement to the Health Policy and Planning. The conference will be followed up by a similar event in Toronto in July 2011.

For more information on the PSP country studies see the PSP website (address given below). Contact information on the collaborating institutions is also given on the website.

The PSP has demonstrated the immense importance of the private health sector in countries of great diversity with different political and health care systems in Asia and Africa. It has also led to extensive networking and collaboration with research institutions, international organisations and donors round the world. This networking has allowed pro-poor perspectives and a focus on health outcomes to influence developments within the international health community on private sector issues.

The work on PSP has also demonstrated the role and need for interaction in international health among international and national organisations on private health sector development.


Contact person


Birger Forsberg

Organizational unit: Global health (IHCAR)

Global HealthPublic Health