Drug Shops & Pharmacies: A first stop for family planning and health services, but what do we know about the clients they serve?

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A call to engage important market actors to meet the health needs of family planning clients

The Sustainable Development Goals will be difficult to achieve without vigorous participation from the private sector. In fact, private drug shops and pharmacies are a widely used source for health information, products, and services, including family planning (FP), especially in sub-Saharan Africa.1 Throughout Africa, however, the burgeoning private sector is generally fragmented with little coordination and negligible regulatory oversight. This impacts the ability of governments to undertake quality assurance for services and products that are delivered through these private channels. In some contexts, these challenges are further exacerbated by inherent tension between government and the private sector, with few incentives to promote quality of care. At the same time, a better understanding of the supply-and demand-side factors that prompt clients to utilize the private sector can help shape wise policies, incentives, and public-private dialogue that aim to effectively engage the private sector as part of the overall health system.