[ Course ]
Engaging the private sector to deliver COVID-19 tools and achieve Health for All
Health Emergencies
Programme Area


During health emergencies, governments need to mobilize all resources – both public and private – to accelerate the implementation of national response efforts. At the same time, they are called on to ensure private sector’s actions are aligned to core principles of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and to the achievement of national health goals. This course defines key concepts and presents a range of tools and proven approaches to enable Ministries of Health to harness private sector capacity to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 tools while achieving national policy goals that advance Health for All.

Course Overview

The course focuses on the urgent need to engage the private sector to ensure the efficient and equitable delivery of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines to effectively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic at the country level. It will also helps countries strengthen their health systems governance by engaging all relevant health actors, both public and private, in their journey towards UHC. The course is designed to empower health ministries with the skills and tools to effectively collaborate and partner with the private sector. Although focused to support countries’ response to COVID19, it is equally relevant to engage the private sector to attain national health objectives ensuring Health for All. 

The target audience for this course includes Ministry of Health, policy makers and program managers, WHO staff at regional and country levels, and global health practitioners and researchers supporting COVID-19 efforts (and other health objectives beyond COVID-19) in countries. 

Learning Objectives
By the end of this course, participants should be able to:

  • Identify the scope and scale of the private sector in health and the elements of it that are most relevant to the delivery of COVID-19 tools.
  • Map and define private sector actors that are relevant to the delivery of COVID-19 tools and/or a particular health problem. 
  • Understand key concepts related to the private sector in health, and the governance behaviours required for effective stewardship health systems.
  • Explain the benefits and risks to engage with the private sector, and what are the processes and strategies that can help optimise the engagement to deliver COVID-19 tools and/or achieve policy goals.
  • Define the range of tools of government used to shape the scope, activities, and behaviours of the private sector, and understand the context in which they work best.

Course Contents
Introductory module: why this course? By the end of this module, participants should be able to: understand WHO’s view on engaging the private sector for COVID-19 tools delivery. 

Module 1: What is the private sector in health, and why does it matter?  The first module explains what the private sector is, its scope and scale, and its distinct sub-components. This module is important because effective governance of the private sector requires an understanding of the health sector's market structure, including the relationships within and between the public and private sectors. Distinguishing between the different parts of the private sector is also important because these different parts may require or respond to quite different forms of governance intervention.  

Module 2: Why do policy makers need to engage the private sector in health? Module 2 explains why it is essential to have an effective public policy on engaging with the private sector in health. The module explains the benefits for policymakers to engage the private sector and describes how governments can leverage it to respond to COVID-19 and to achieve other nationally defined health goals. 

Module 3: What are the key behaviors for governance of health systems? In module 3, participants will learn about the six key governance behaviors that WHO recommends governments perform to ensure the effective governance of the private sector both in the short term for the COVID-19 response and in the longer term as part of the efforts to rebuild health systems and work towards UHC.

Module 4: What is public-private dialogue (PPD) and its best practices? Module 4 introduces the concept of public private dialogue. The module defines the attributes of public private dialogue in a health policy setting, explain the benefits and risks of a public private dialogue process, and describes the good practices that make public private dialogue effective. 

Module 5: How to facilitate an effective public-private dialogue process.Module 5 continues from module 4.  It explains how to implement a public private dialogue based on a six-step process, implementation tips are provided based on field experience, and the skills and competencies required to facilitate a successful dialogue process are explained.  

Module 6: How to contract the private sector during an emergency. Module 6 offers a practical introduction to contracting the private sector in support of national COVID-19 responses. Its target audience is policymakers in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) that have, at this time, limited experience of using contracts for health services but are expected to do so in the emergency conditions created by COVID-19.

Module 7: How to landscape the private sector to identify relevant private groups to rollout COVID-19 vaccines. Module 7 presents a simple process and supporting tools to help ministries of health landscape key private sector actors that can possibly support their country to rollout the COVID-19 vaccine and other COVID tools.

Module 8: How to deploy the tools of governments to harness the private sector to deliver COVID-19 services. Module 8 provides a guide to the governance tools that countries can use to create constrains and incentives for the private sector to operate in accordance with key health policy objectives, including fighting COVID-19 and building towards Health for All.

Module 9: How have governments engage the private sector to deliver COVID19 tools? Lessons from the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Module 9 is a case study. It explains how governments are working with the private sector to address COVID-19 showcasing examples from the Eastern Mediterranean WHO Region.