Social Policy in a Developing World

Social Policy in a Developing World

Edited by Rebecca Surender and Robert Walker

This volume provides a critical analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing social protection systems in the global south, and examines current strategies for addressing poverty and welfare needs in the region. In particular, the text explores the extent to which the analytic models and concepts for the study of social policy in the industrialised North are relevant in a developing country context. The volume analyses the various institutions, actors, instruments and mechanisms involved in the welfare arrangements of developing countries and provides a study of the contexts, development and future trajectory of social policy in the global South.

Chapter 6: Addressing the failings of public health systems: should the private sector be an instrument of choice?

Jane Doherty and Diane McIntyre

Subjects: development studies, development studies, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, social policy in emerging countries


Arguments about an increased role for the private sector in the health systems of low- and middle-income countries (in terms of both the funding and the provision of health services) have been taking place since the 1990s. The debate intensified in 2007 with the release of a report by the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group. Titled The Business of Health in Africa: Partnering with the Private Sector to Improve People’s Lives, the report remains one of the most fervent expositions to date in favour of the commercial sector. It went as far as to suggest that, in order to strengthen their health systems, African governments and donors should facilitate private sector expansion through more business-friendly policies and even subsidize private sector initiatives. This chapter uses the example of the health sector to highlight some of the issues that confront analysts of social policy when thinking through how to harness the strengths of the private sector in the service of social objectives. It also reflects on the contextual differences between low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) on the one hand, and high-income settings on the other, that affect the policy choices in this area. Examining these issues is important because of the current international focus on universal health systems. The 2010 World Health Organization report, titled Health Systems Financing: The Path Towards Universal Coverage, defines the core of universal coverage as providing financial protection from the costs of health care, as well as access to needed health services, for the entire population.

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