Public-non-governmental organisation partnerships for health: an exploratory study with case studies from recent Ghanaian experience

BMC Public Health. 2016 Sep 13;16(1):963. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3636-2.


Background: The last few decades have seen a dramatic increase in public-non-governmental organisation (NGO) partnerships in the health sector of many low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) as a means of improving the public's health. However, little research has focused to date on the nature, facilitators and barriers of these partnerships.

Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 17 participants from five different NGOs and their collaboration with state partners in the Ghanaian health sector at the national and local levels in four regions of the country (Northern, Upper East, Greater Accra, and Eastern) to explore the drivers and nature of these partnerships and their advantages and disadvantages in the effort to improve the public's health.

Results: Major findings reveal that: 1) each collaboration between civil society organisations (CSOs) and the state in the health sector demands different partnerships; 2) partnership types can range from equal, formal contractual, decentralized to advocacy ones; 3) commitment by the state and NGOs to work in collaboration lead to improved service delivery, reduced health inequities and disparities; 4) added value of NGOs lies in their knowledge, expertise, community legitimacy, ability to attract donor funding and implementation capacity to address health needs in geographical areas or communities where the government does not reach and for services, which it does not provide and 5) success factors and challenges to be considered, moving forward to promote such partnerships in other LMICs.

Conclusions: Recommendations are offered for NGOs, governments, donors, and future research including studying the organisational effectiveness and sustainability of these partnerships to deliver effective and efficient health outcomes to recommend universal best practices in health care.

Keywords: Ghana; Global health; Health reforms; Health sector; Public-non-governmental organisation partnerships; Qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Organizations / organization & administration*
  • Politics
  • Public Sector / organization & administration*
  • Public-Private Sector Partnerships*