The private sector is measured in three ways, all important, all measuring different attributes, and often confounded. The most common misconceptions about the private sector stem from mixing attributes without understanding that they are complementary, but not interchangeable.

The three ways of measuring the private sector are:

If you are concerned with the quality of care in private healthcare settings, then it matters tremendously whether 15% or 60% of health delivery points are private. It does not matter if 15% or 60% of health care expenditure is private. This is critical. Approximately 50 to 90% of health expenditures in rural China are private out-of-pocket, even where government subsidized health insurance is in place. But services are all provided by the government - government clinics, health stations, and hospitals in rural China charge significant user fees. In this example financing is largely private, but delivery is almost all public. (Note: if you are not clear what makes a facility public or private, look here).

There are trends, nuances, and important times to use each measure, but if you are a policy maker, academic, or student making a case for addressing private delivery, or for tracking private financing, take the time to think through what you are measuring and what it means.

For national and regional data on private sector healthcare utilization we have conducted analysis of DHS data from 48 countries by wealth quintile.

Data on private general outpatient pediatric care are online here.

Data on private family planning care are online here.

Data on private ARI care is here.

Data on private pneumonia care is here.

All data at the links above is shown both by country and region, with source of care analyzed by wealth quintile. This work was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.