By Jeffrey L. Sturchio and Adel Mahmoud
Why is it that we can buy Coca-Cola beverages virtually anywhere, when basic health products like oral rehydration therapy or condoms are unavailable in many of those same places? As discussed at a recent Princeton Seminar on Global Health, the answer to this question and others may lie in applying the relevant expertise of the private sector to new health initiatives through public-private partnerships for the improvement of global health. Although global health was historically dominated by UN agencies and bilateral organizations, new partnerships with the private sector have emerged since the 1990s. For example, today the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) alone has formed nearly 700 public-private partnerships, demonstrating a remarkable increase from around 50 public-private partnerships existing in the 1980s. In part, global health’s private sector revolution has been spurred by advances in science and technology as well as the realization that previous “magic bullet” interventions are insufficient to address the broad determinants of health.
With an evident link between a country’s GDP and its overall health status, the private sector has a stake in global health improvements. From a macroeconomic perspective, a corporation’s investment in the well-being of its consumers has long-term benefits for its economic development through the creation of new markets and the availability of additional human resources. Although short-term pressures from investors may conflict directly with a corporation’s decision to allocate resources towards long-term societal improvement, experience shows that there is long-term value in investments that create benefits for both companies and the societies in which they operate.
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