Marie Stopes International Australia

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Social franchising in focus

Social franchising is one of the innovative ways in which we deliver services to the world’s most under-served people. To mark this week’s Global Conference on Social Franchising for Health, our UK counterpart spoke with Head of Social Franchising, Brendan Hayes, how social franchising works and why it has such potential to expand access to healthcare.

What is social franchising?

Social franchising is an approach to delivering healthcare that recognises that the private sector is a major contributor to health services in many countries around the world. This includes small, private providers who deliver healthcare to the poorest and most marginalised sections of society.

However, the quality of private sector services is often low and fails to prioritise preventative healthcare such as family planning. Through social franchising we seek to partner with private facilities, which are often run by nurses and midwives, to improve their standards and expand access to high quality family planning services.

What are the benefits of partnering with small, private providers?

Small clinics provide healthcare to the most vulnerable, and because they are members of the community, they are accountable to the people they serve in a way that is often not seen in public facilities.

Marie Stopes International plays an important role on behalf of governments in organising these providers, assuring quality in these networks, and, in some cases, creating the opportunity for public procurement of services from an otherwise fragmented health market.

In what areas are we seeing particular success?

We have some really exciting opportunities to connect our private providers to national health insurance schemes. In the Philippines, we are supporting our midwives on accreditation standards for maternal care, which will allow us to increase clients’ access to both safe delivery and family planning services.

What are the main challenges you face in implementing a social franchising program?

Our aim is to increase access to high quality family planning services, which can be life-changing for women and hugely beneficial to health systems overall. However, family planning isn’t always a convincing business proposition, so not all providers see the benefits of joining a social franchising program.

What key issues will be discussed at this week’s conference?

Financial sustainability is a key issue at this year’s Global Conference on Social Franchising for Health. How do you achieve financial sustainability while reaching the poorest women with essential services?

Marie Stopes International is a leading organisation in this area, as shown by our work linking providers to health financing opportunities in the Philippines, in places like Ghana and Kenya, and in Nigeria under the African Health Markets for Equity Partnership.

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