Demand side approaches are currently high on the pro-poor agenda. This paper examines the different understandings of ‘demand side’ in various literatures, in operational and policy perspectives and in international agencies. It maps out the different ways in which demand side issues have been defined in the health sector context in low and middle-income countries, together with various frameworks and tools that have been employed in developing demand side initiatives.
The term ‘demand side’ appears with increasing frequency in health planning and policy literature. The main drivers behind this interest are located in the economic and institutional crises and transformations of national health sectors in the last decade, including increasing marketisation and provider pluralism, the collapse (in some settings) of public sector services, and governance and regulatory failures. This has gone alongside the limited success of supply side health sector reforms in improving health service delivery.