Contracting-out primary health care services in Tanzania towards UHC: How policy processes and context influence policy design and implementation

Stephen Maluka, Dereck Chitama, Esther Dungumaro, Crecensia Masawe, Krishna Rao, Zubin Shroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Governments increasingly recognize the need to engage non-state providers (NSPs) in health systems in order to move successfully towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC). One common approach to engaging NSPs is to contract-out the delivery of primary health care services. Research on contracting arrangements has typically focused on their impact on health service delivery; less is known about the actual processes underlying the development and implementation of interventions and the contextual factors that influence these. This paper reports on the design and implementation of service agreements (SAs) between local governments and NSPs for the provision of primary health care services in Tanzania. It examines the actors, policy process, context and policy content that influenced how the SAs were designed and implemented. Methods: We used qualitative analytical methods to study the Tanzanian experience with contracting- out. Data were drawn from document reviews and in-depth interviews with 39 key informants, including six interviews at the national and regional levels and 33 interviews at the district level. All interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and translated into English. Data were managed in NVivo (version 10.0) and analyzed thematically. Results: The institutional frameworks shaping the engagement of the government with NSPs are rooted in Tanzania's long history of public-private partnerships in the health sector. Demand for contractual arrangements emerged from both the government and the faith-based organizations that manage NSP facilities. Development partners provided significant technical and financial support, signaling their approval of the approach. Although districts gained the mandate and power to make contractual agreements with NSPs, financing the contracts remained largely dependent on donor funds via central government budget support. Delays in reimbursements, limited financial and technical capacity of local government authorities and lack of trust between the government and private partners affected the implementation of the contractual arrangements. Conclusions: Tanzania's central government needs to further develop the technical and financial capacity necessary to better support districts in establishing and financing contractual agreements with NSPs for primary health care services. Furthermore, forums for continuous dialogue between the government and contracted NSPs should be fostered in order to clarify the expectations of all parties and resolve any misunderstandings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118
JournalInternational journal for equity in health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 5 2018


  • Contracting-out
  • Non-state providers
  • Primary health care
  • Tanzania

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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