Background: In malaria elimination settings, all malaria cases must be identified, documented and investigated. To facilitate complete and timely reporting of all malaria cases and effective case management and follow-up, engagement with private providers is essential, particularly in settings where the private sector is a major source of healthcare. However, research on the role and performance of the private sector in malaria diagnosis, case management and reporting in malaria elimination settings is limited. Moreover, the most effective strategies for private sector engagement in malaria elimination settings remain unclear.
Methods: Twenty-five experts in malaria elimination, disease surveillance and private sector engagement were purposively sampled and interviewed. An extensive review of grey and peer-reviewed literature on private sector testing, treatment, and reporting for malaria was performed. Additional in-depth literature review was conducted for six case studies on eliminating and neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia and Southern Africa.
Results: The private health sector can be categorized based on their commercial orientation or business model (for-profit versus nonprofit) and their regulation status within a country (formal vs informal). A number of potentially effective strategies exist for engaging the private sector. Conducting a baseline assessment of the private sector is critical to understanding its composition, size, geographical distribution and quality of services provided. Facilitating reporting, referral and training linkages between the public and private sectors and making malaria a notifiable disease are important strategies to improve private sector involvement in malaria surveillance. Financial incentives for uptake of rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapy should be combined with training and community awareness campaigns for improving uptake. Private sector providers can also be organized and better engaged through social franchising, effective regulation, professional organizations and government outreach.
Conclusion: This review highlights the importance of engaging private sector stakeholders early and often in the development of malaria elimination strategies.
Keywords: Malaria; Malaria elimination; Malaria surveillance; Private sector; Private sector engagement; Swaziland; Vietnam.