The sexual and reproductive health care market in Bangladesh: where do poor women go?

Reprod Health Matters. 2011 May;19(37):21-31. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(11)37551-9.


In Bangladesh, the formal public health system provides few services for common sexual and reproductive health problems such as white discharge, fistula, prolapse, menstrual problems, reproductive and urinary tract infections, and sexual problems. Recent research has found that poor women and men resort to informal providers for these problems instead. This paper draws on interviews with 303 providers and 312 women from two rural and one urban area of Bangladesh from July 2008 to January 2009. Both informal and formal markets played an important role in treating these problems, including for the poor, but the treatments were often unlikely to resolve the problems. Providers ranged from village doctors without formal training to qualified private practitioners. The health system is heavily marketised and boundaries between "public" and "private" are blurred. There exists a huge, neglected domain of sexual and reproductive health needs which are a source of silent suffering and for which there are no trained health staff providing treatment in government facilities. The complexity of this situation calls for engaged debate in Bangladesh on how to improve the quality of existing services, discourage or prevent obviously harmful practices, and develop financing mechanisms to enable women to access effective treatment, regardless of the source, for these neglected problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bangladesh
  • Female
  • Genital Diseases, Female / diagnosis*
  • Genital Diseases, Female / therapy*
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Poverty*
  • Private Sector / statistics & numerical data
  • Professional Role
  • Public Sector / statistics & numerical data
  • Reproductive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health
  • Young Adult