Many people in developing countries use a variety of market-based providers of health services. These can range from highly organised and regulated hospitals and specialist doctors to informal health workers and drug sellers operating outside the legal framework. Encounters with health workers, even within public systems, often involve a cash payment.

Understanding health markets and improving health system performance where markets are a major part of the services people use is central to accelerating the scale-up of coverage and use of health services and delivering improved outcomes. Without this, the health-related Millennium Development Goals and universal access commitments are unlikely to be met.

The latest issue of id21 insights explores some of the ways that the performance of health markets could be improved so that poor people benefit. The issue was produced in partnership with the Future Health Systems Research Programme Consortium – a UK Department for International Development funded initiative that takes an innovative approach to the problem of weak and poorly functioning health systems.

‘Making health markets work for poor people’ covers a variety of issues from the role of informal providers in delivering services to how franchising might alter drug markets in developing countries and contains learning from a number of countries including Nigeria, India and Bangladesh. Many of the articles point to the importance of market regulation and the role of civil society in overseeing health markets to ensure quality, access and equity. The guest editors, Hilary Standing and Gerry Bloom, point out, ‘These types of initiatives are more likely to be scaled up when complemented by strong political leadership and effective support from government systems.’

You can view this issue of id21 insights online or download the PDF version.

To comment on any of the articles in this edition please feel free to contact the authors or or Anna Thompson on [email protected].

More information about Future Health Systems can be found on our website