The private medical sector is an important and rapidly growing source of health care in India. Private medical providers (PMP) are a diverse group, known to be poorly regulated by government policies and variable in the quality of services provided. Studies of their practices have documented inappropriate prescribing as well as violation of ethical guidelines on patient care. However, despite the critique that inequitable services characterise the private medical sector, PMPs remain important and preferred providers of primary care. This paper argues that their greater involvement in the public health framework is imperative to addressing the goal of health equity. Through a review of two research studies conducted in Pune, India, to examine the role of PMPs in tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS care, the themes of equity and access arising in private sector delivery of care for TB and HIV/AIDS are explored and the future policy directions for involving PMPs in public health programmes are highlighted. The paper concludes that public-private partnerships can enhance continuity of care for patients with TB and HIV/AIDS and argues that interventions to involve PMPs must be supported by appropriate research, along with political commitment and leadership from both public and private sectors.
Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (2006) 100 (4) 312-320