The role of the private-sector in public health

In recent years, the view of private sector business has moved from a focused attention on profits and the bottom line to a more nuanced understanding of how they can enhance their competitiveness by addressing the needs and challenges of the communities in which they operate. This change has been driven by necessity as well as external pressures which emerged following multiple financial scandals.

Corporate responsibility is no longer an oxymoron claims a recent paper issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The report examines the various ways in which the private-sector has united with international organizations to pursue global health initiatives.

Lars Thunell, executive vice president and CEO of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), recently observed, “This could be the turning point where we recognize the mutually supportive roles of the private and public sectors in promoting development.”

The authors note that between 1990 and 2010, annual development assistance for health has more than quadrupled from $5.7 billion to $27 billion, in part because of the contributions of private-sector organizations and global alliances. For instance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spends almost as much as the World Health Organization on child vaccinations.

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