Today’s ministries of health face a host of complex, costly challenges. Around the world non-communicable diseases, aging populations, and COVID-19 threaten to strain existing healthcare structures, overwhelm national healthcare budgets, and outpace existing infrastructural capacity. These crises have pushed healthcare systems to a breaking point, and—with the possible exception of COVID-19—only stand to become more dire with time.
Governments have struggled to keep up. The challenges are too costly, too complex, and they are growing too quickly. But, with cash-strapped ministries of health struggling to manage these crises, one thing has become clear: neither governments nor the private sector have the resources—financial, operational, and human—to address them alone. Increasingly, public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been used to combine the relative strengths of both the public and private sectors, enabling overextended governments to do more with less. Not only can PPPs save money, they can also serve as highly effective management structures, spurring innovation and fostering efficiency. But while their advantages are many, PPPs can also be challenging. Solutions must be negotiated, and conflicts of interest must be managed. Successful PPPs require cross-sector collaboration and interdisciplinary skillsets, and professionals who are equipped with these skillsets are—currently—few and far between. Simply put, the future of healthcare lies in PPPs, but if public- and private-sector executives are to be prepared for that future, they will need to be armed with certain skills and frameworks that they need to succeed.
Enter the Joint Centre for Global Infrastructure Policy, an ambitious new Joint Centre to be established by the PPP Initiative and the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London. Motivated by a desire to combine the Bartlett’s world-renowned emphasis on interdisciplinary study with the PPP Initiative’s economics-driven approach to healthcare issues, the Joint Centre will develop a new healthcare curriculum for graduate and executive education courses emphasizing the frameworks, skills, motivations and incentives that underpin successful healthcare PPPs. This curriculum—rooted in the foundational PPP courses pioneered by Professor Alan M. Trager at Harvard Kennedy School and Johns Hopkins SAIS—will use the research and teaching methods associated with healthcare PPPs, combining The Bartlett’s studies of infrastructure investment, finance, and governance with healthcare issues. Further, the Centre will act as a convening mechanism, bringing together high-level executives from across borders and across sectors, including public and private sector executives, graduate students, and constituent donor organizations. Together, they will address the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges: non-communicable diseases, aging populations, and Covid-19. In the process, the Joint Centre will seek to change the way we think about healthcare to include not only medical, scientific, and public health concerns, but also infrastructural and economic ones as well.
The Centre will attract top-level talent not just from within the UK, but from around the world. Drawing from the worlds of investment, planning, finance, and management, the Centre’s potential reach extends far beyond that of a conventional school of public health. With the potential addition of a public service fellowship program, top-tier graduate students could be encouraged to apply PPP knowledge to careers in the public sector, ensuring that—over the long run—PPP expertise would pervade the public sector as well as the private sector.
The Joint Centre for Global Infrastructure Policy enjoys support from a diverse group of public, private, and multilateral stakeholders. Potential donors include governments; NGOs specializing in international public health; multinational biopharmaceutical companies; global infrastructure developers and asset managers; and government-backed, institutional investors. This diverse set of supporters would allow the Joint Centre to address the medical, policy, development, investment, and management considerations associated with delivering effective and sustainable healthcare PPPs.
The Centre will seek to address several key questions, including:
1. In what ways are our current health systems insufficient, and, if they must be changed, what form should they take going forward? What needs to be done and how will it be accomplished?
2. How can health systems be made more resilient? How can they be strengthened to address inequality?
3. How can low- and middle-income countries “skip steps” in the development of health systems and their treatment of individuals?
4. What is health as an investment? How can governments work across sectors and ministries to leverage their investments most effectively?
5. How can multilateral organizations add government capacity in cross-sector healthcare partnerships?