Principal Associate, International Health
Deputy Director, Sustaining Health Outcomes through the Private Sector (SHOPS) Plus Project
Mention the word Zika and many will think of a mosquito. However, Abt Principal Associate Caroline Quijada points out, people should also think of condoms and other family planning options.
Because Zika can be spread through sexual transmission as well as from mosquitoes, family planning options are important. But, as Quijada points out, consumers need access to quality, affordable options, no matter where they live.
The Importance of the Private Sector
“In Haiti, for example, modern contraceptive use is only 31 percent,” Quijada says, “But of those women who are accessing family planning products, over 60 percent of them are accessing them from the private sector. This is not unique to Haiti. Family planning can lessen the impact and scale of the virus. Having the private sector as a partner in your response is critical to reducing the spread of Zika.”
Family planning services in the private sector include pharmacies, local drug shops, or private health facilities. These outlets may be private businesses, but they play key roles in the lives of many rural women and their families.
“For many people globally, the private health sector is the first point of care for individuals and their families,” she says.
Learning from Ebola
Quijada knows the need for private health sector partnerships first hand. She explains how health systems, especially those in fragile or low-resource countries, often struggle to meet the needs of their populations during normal circumstances, let alone during a crisis. After the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, she says, the government knew it needed help and wanted data-driven insight on how best to prepare and collaborate for future crises.
“In Guinea, the government is interested in learning how the private health sector can help be a partner in future outbreaks. They asked Abt Associates to conduct a private health sector assessment to understand the size, scope, and scale of services the private sector is providing. They want to know where the private sector has resources that could be utilized and how can the private sector be better engaged in the response in the future.”
Quijada knows collecting the data and informing practice across sectors is an important first step to mounting a global health response to threats like Ebola or Zika. The partnership required takes time, collaboration and leadership. “You don’t just need the private health sector to address a response. You need the government to be mobilized and to be a partner with the private sector. Abt not only brings the private health sector depth and experience, but we bring strong health systems public sector background work, too.”