Health seeking behaviours and private sector delivery of care for non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review

Callum Brindley*, Nilmini Wijemunige, Charlotte Dieteren, Judith Bom, Bruno Meessen, Igna Bonfrer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Globally, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of mortality and morbidity placing a huge burden on individuals, families and health systems, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This rising disease burden calls for policy responses that engage the entire health care system. This study aims to synthesize evidence on how people with NCDs choose their healthcare providers in LMICs, and the outcomes of these choices, with a focus on private sector delivery. 


A systematic search for literature following PRISMA guidelines was conducted. We extracted and synthesised data on the determinants and outcomes of private health care utilisation for NCDs in LMICs. A quality and risk of bias assessment was performed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT). 


We identified 115 studies for inclusion. Findings on determinants and outcomes were heterogenous, often based on a particular country context, disease, and provider. The most reported determinants of seeking private NCD care were patients having a higher socioeconomic status; greater availability of services, staff and medicines; convenience including proximity and opening hours; shorter waiting times and perceived quality. Transitioning between public and private facilities is common. Costs to patients were usually far higher in the private sector for both inpatient and outpatient settings. The quality of NCD care seems mixed depending on the disease, facility size and location, as well as the aspect of quality assessed. 


Given the limited, mixed and context specific evidence currently available, adapting health service delivery models to respond to NCDs remains a challenge in LMICs. More robust research on health seeking behaviours and outcomes, especially through large multi-country surveys, is needed to inform the effective design of mixed health care systems that effectively engage both public and private providers. 

Trial registration: 

PROSPERO registration number CRD42022340059 .

Original languageEnglish
Article number127
JournalBmc Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2024, The Author(s).


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