Background: In 2002 Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and its development partners initiated a new paradigm for the health sector by electing to Contract-Out (CO) the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) to non-state providers (NSPs). This model is generally regarded as successful, but literature is scarce that examines the motivations underlying implementation and factors influencing program success. This paper uses relevant theories and qualitative data to describe how and why contracting out delivery of primary health care services to NSPs has been effective. The main aim of this study was to assess the contextual, institutional, and contractual factors that influenced the performance of NSPs delivering the BPHS in Afghanistan. Methods: The qualitative study design involved individual in-depth interviews and focus group discussions conducted in six provinces of Afghanistan, as well as a desk review. The framework for assessing key factors of the contracting mechanism proposed by Liu et al. was utilized in the design, data collection and data analysis. Results: While some contextual factors facilitated the CO (e.g. MoPH leadership, NSP innovation and community participation), harsh geography, political interference and insecurity in some provinces had negative effects. Contractual factors, such as effective input and output management, guided health service delivery. Institutional factors were important; management capacity of contracted NSPs affects their ability to deliver outcomes. Effective human resources and pharmaceutical management were notable elements that contributed to the successful delivery of the BPHS. The contextual, contractual and institutional factors interacted with each other. Conclusion: Three sets of factors influenced the implementation of the BPHS: contextual, contractual and institutional. The MoPH should consider all of these factors when contracting out the BPHS and other functions to NSPs. Other fragile states and countries emerging from a period of conflict could learn from Afghanistan's example in contracting out primary health care services, keeping in mind that generic or universal contracting policies might not work in all geographical areas within a country or between countries.
- Contracting out
- Non-state providers
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health