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Public versus private health care delivery: Beyond the slogans

In most settings, a „public“ health service refers to a service which belongs to the state. The term „private“ is used when health care is delivered by individuals and/or institutions not administered by the state. In this paper it is argued that such a distinction, which is based on the institutional or administrative identity of the health care provider, is not adequate because it takes for granted that the nature of this identity automatically determines the nature of the service delivered to the population. A different frame of classification between public and private health services is proposed: one which is based on the purpose the health service pursues and on the outputs it yields. A set of five operational criteria to distinguish between health services guided by a public or private purpose is presented. This alternative classification is discussed in relation to a variety of existing situations in sub-Saharan Africa (Mali, Uganda, Zimbabwe). It is hoped that it can be used as a tool in the hands of the health planner in order to bring more rationality in the current altercation between the public and the private health care sector.

Daniele Giusti, Xavier de Béthune, Bart Criel, in: Health Policy and Planning, Volume 12, Number 3, September 1997, pp. 192-198. Copyright © 1997 by Oxford University Press. Reprinted in the Bulletin of Medicus Mundi Switzerland No. 107, February 2008, with kind permission of the authors and the journal. Text version based on

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