The role of private providers in treating child diarrhoea in Latin America

Hugh R. Waters, Laurel E. Hatt, Robert E. Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Diarrhoeal disease, a leading cause of child mortality, disproportionately affects children in low-income countries - where private and non-governmental providers are often an important source of health care. We use 10 Living Standards Measurement Surveys from Latin America to model the choice of care for child diarrhoea in the private sector compared to the public sector. A total of 36.8% of children in the combined data set saw a private provider rather than a public one when taken for treatment. Each additional quintile of household economic status is associated with an increase of 6.5 percentage points in the probability that a child with diarrhoea is taken to a private provider (p<0.001). However, treatments provided in the private sector are manifestly of worse quality than in the public sector. A total of 33.0% of children visiting a public provider received Oral Rehydration Solution, compared to 13.7% of those visiting a private provider. Conversely, children treated by a private provider are more likely to receive drugs, most commonly unnecessary antibiotics. Ironically, when it comes to treatment for child diarrhoea, wealthier and better educated households in Latin America are paying for treatment in the private sector that is ineffective in comparison with treatments that are commonly and inexpensively available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-29
Number of pages9
JournalHealth economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Child health
  • Diarrhoeal disease
  • Latin America
  • Private providers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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