Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships to Improve Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health

Washington, DC – As part of its Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health series, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) organized its fourth event, "Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to Improve Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health." The event was held at the US Capitol Visitor Center in collaboration with the Global Health Council and PATH and was sponsored by Congressman Russ Carnahan (D – MO). 

"This event comes in a timely manner with the release of the U.N. Global Strategy on Women and Children's Health," opened Smita Baruah, Director of Government Relations at the Global Health Council and moderator for this event. She noted that while different barriers to maternal, newborn, and child health persist, such as poor health systems and weak access, PPPs among NGOs, the private sector, and government offer a solution.

The panel discussion included Wendy Taylor, Senior Advisor, Innovative Finance and Public Private Partnerships, Bureau for Global Health, US Agency for International Development (USAID); Joy Marini, Director of Corporate Contributions for Maternal and Child Health, Johnson & Johnson; Hugh Chang, Director of Special Initiatives at PATH; and Juan-Carlos Alegre, Director of Monitoring & Evaluation, Management Sciences for Health. The full room learned about how each sector utilizes PPPs to improve the lives of mothers, newborns, and children globally.

Partnerships as US Policy

"President Obama established the spirit of partnership as a defining aspect of our global strategy and a key part of our development efforts as a whole," said Wendy Taylor. Expanding on this, Taylor continued that while President Obama's speech highlighted the enormous progress made for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) during the 2010 United Nations Summit, he clearly stated the need for "historic leaps" to meet the MDGs, including expanding responsibility beyond a solely governmental directive. 

This shared partnership is at the core of the U.S. Global Health Initiative through collaborative funding through the Global Alliance to Improve Nutrition and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization; leveraging technology and innovation, such as through their partnership with CAPRISA to launch the HIV-preventative microbicide and the five-partner multi-experienced alliance of Healthy Babies Breathe; leveraging expertise, which has connected USAID with a group of microfinance receivers in India, who are now partnering to sell oral rehydration salts to prevent diarrhea mortality and to provide child health counseling; and leveraging distribution to create catalytic and sustainable development on the ground.

Lessons Learned from the Corporate Process

"We need partnerships that are robust," said Marini. Echoing Taylor's call for increased partnership, Marini continued, "Governments are usually interested in health indicators that take a long time to change – maternal mortality for example – and the private sector cannot do it without government support." It is a necessary partnership, particularly during their five-year "Freedom of Breath, Fountain of Life" project in China for neonatal resuscitation. It required the Chinese government to recognize not only the importance of this project but also the major barrier – that nurses were not skilled in neonatal resuscitation – and change its national policy to require training. Such trusting partnerships often yield rich results.

Working with partners as a small as an NGO in Sierra Leone to the United Nations and Ministries of Health, Johnson & Johnson has developed a keen understanding of how to leverage their 600 partners in 50 countries to produce life-changing, long-term differences in health. 

"It's a give and take process, and the first year is hard," shared Marini."Partnerships require communication; we don't want to partner in the old way [of silos], we want to partner in the new way."  Further, Marini advised, "The public sector needs to harmonize their goals. It becomes confusing for the private sector when each partner is asking for a separate funding stream, often for the same country." 

Creating Win-Win Situations

"In order to provide sustainable solutions, the public sector needs to engage the private sector in a mutually beneficial way that helps them build long-term profit while delivering health services," said Chang. For example, the creation of vaccines for developing countries can be a risky venture for pharmaceutical companies because they often do not understand emerging or underserved markets, and thus they are unsure of market profitability. PATH helps to mitigate these risks through their understanding of demand in country, price structures in country, the regulatory environment, and supply chains.

PATH's approach to harmonizing these complex relationships with separate goals is to use a portfolio model. This model assesses risk over a basket of opportunities, which can smooth out risk. "Whether we're engaged with local partners or big pharmacy companies, we need the sophistication in business planning that our partners have, so we understand our partners' concerns and can create win-win situations."

Impacts of Partnerships

"Partnerships are being used to achieve increased utilization – not just availability or access – of key practices and services," said Alegre. Using an example from Peru, MSH has partnered with the US Agency for International Development and a local mining company, which is mandated by the Peruvian government to designate 2% of its earnings to social projects, to provide technical expertise to a community-level capacity building project. Receiving funding from both partners, MSH has reached 300 communities with outcomes such as increased child immunization rates, trained skilled birth attendants, antenatal visits, institutional births for hard to reach populations, and improved education to communities on maternal and child health and nutrition issues.

The partnership has been highly instrumental in building stronger systems by increasing local capacity and encouraging government ownership by ensuring the partners share a common vision and goal to increase utilization of quality health services for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Regardless of the experience or sector, one common message prevailed: public-private partnerships are crucial in the current global health arena and are critical tools to improve maternal, newborn, and child health. 

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