At a time when many countries might not achieve the health targets of the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda for sustainable development is being negotiated, the contribution of faith-based health-care providers is potentially crucial. For better partnership to be achieved and for health systems to be strengthened by the alignment of faith-based health-providers with national systems and priorities, improved information is needed at all levels. Comparisons of basic factors (such as magnitude, reach to poor people, cost to patients, modes of financing, and satisfaction of patients with the services received) within faith-based health-providers and national systems show some differences. As the first report in the Series on faith-based health care, we review a broad body of published work and introduce some empirical evidence on the role of faith-based health-care providers, with a focus on Christian faith-based health providers in sub-Saharan Africa (on which the most detailed documentation has been gathered). The restricted and diverse evidence reported supports the idea that faith-based health providers continue to play a part in health provision, especially in fragile health systems, and the subsequent reports in this Series review controversies in faith-based health care and recommendations for how public and faith sectors might collaborate more effectively.
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