Our Perspectives

The private sector as a gamechanger for poverty-related disease prevention


Community Health Volunteers with Ebola prevention kits walking through West Point in Monrovia, LiberiaCommunity Health Volunteers with Ebola prevention kits walking through West Point in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: Morgana Wingard/ UNDP

The recent Ebola outbreak has witnessed a resurgence of global attention on health issues facing poorer nations. However, as Bill Gates cautioned in a recent interview, the energy poured into the Ebola outbreak could mean less attention is given to other deadly diseases in poverty stricken areas.

In our recently published report, Barriers and Opportunities at the Base of the Pyramid, we not only look at the relationship between poverty and poor health, but also at how poor health is in and of itself a barrier to poverty reduction.

The report delves into various factors affecting disease prevention such as accessibility, availability, acceptability, and affordability of health services for those living in poverty. This message was also underscored by Gates,  stating that the prevention of Ebola and other diseases in Africa is strongly linked to making basic healthcare more readily available.

In the report we make a strong case on why and how the private sector can be a game changer when it comes to improving the overall well-being of individuals, particularly for those living in poverty.

While corporate philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes have popularized examples on how the private sector contributes to poverty reduction, there are other important ways in which the private sector can and should be encouraged to directly work towards streamlining disease prevention. One such effective way is “Internal CSR”.

Internal CSR programmes benefit a firm’s employees and their families, and can be an important way to provide access for people who otherwise could not afford healthcare. One success story is the Kenana Sugar Company in Sudan. The company’s extensive occupational health services include the Kenana Referral Hospital at the production site. By making healthcare services available and accessible to employees and their family, the company not only boosts worker productivity through good health and a stronger commitment to the company, but also reduces the turnover rate—and the training costs associated with it—as employees become more satisfied with their job.  

Talk to us: Can the private sector play a much more substantial role towards increasing health outcomes and by extension, reduce poverty?

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