Partners in Health: ‘High-quality medical care in resource-limited settings’

Participating in a “directly observed therapy program,” this community health worker in Rwanda visits a patient in her home daily to “accompany” her medical regimen and provide other support services. In 1998, Partners in Health launched an innovative program called the HIV Equity Initiative, which provides free antiretroviral therapy to a handful of AIDS patients, using a community-based model that trained and employed community health workers to administer medications daily and provide social support. Photo by: PIH

Partners in Health was selected as a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator based on a poll of thousands of global development professionals who are part of Devex, the largest network of aid and relief workers in the world.

Announced on April 18, Devex Top 40 Development Innovators is an impressive listing of the world’s leading donor agencies & foundations, development consulting companies, implementing NGOs, and advocacy groups.

We asked each of the Innovators four questions to learn how they stay ahead to the curve and tackle old development challenges in new ways. Here’s how Partners in Health responded:

‘High-quality medical care in resource-limited settings’

If you had to condense it to just one or two sentences, overall, what is it that makes your organization innovative?

Partners in Health partners with local governments to strengthen their public health systems — training community health workers from the communities we serve, employing local nurses and doctors, rebuilding public clinics and hospitals — instead of building parallel health systems.

Can you provide a specific example of something your organization has done that is particularly innovative?

Innovation is at the core of PIH’s services — from providing health care in remote areas where no services were previously available to treating patients with drug regimens once deemed “too expensive” for the world’s poor. Through our Right to Health Care program, when we encounter a patient with a condition that cannot be treated in their home country, we work to bring that patient to the care that they require. We simultaneously try to build the capacity to provide that same care at our sites. PIH now can treat certain cancers with chemotherapy and perform increasingly complex surgeries at our sites — and is continuing to build more and more innovative systems to expand our capabilities at our sites.

Looking ahead 10 years, what are some of the innovations in international development that your organization wants to be a part of?

Partners in Health looks forward to the increase of direct budget assistance to countries receiving international aid. In order to create real and lasting change, governments need significant resources to build and improve public services — from health care to education, roads to water and sewage systems — and the ability to allocate these resources according to their national priorities.

PIH also looks forward to increased information sharing and the improvement of feedback loops about the effectiveness of international development programs. With our partners, PIH strives to not only provide services, but also to monitor our programs, improve their effectiveness, share results and best practices, and influence global international development policies.

One factor in driving innovation at any organization is the talent you hire and the partnerships you make. How does your organization take into account innovation when it comes to cultivating talent and partners?

Partners in Health recognizes that as an organization, we have particular skills and strengths — namely, the delivery of high-quality medical care in resource-limited settings. We also recognize that in order to effect lasting change, we need to treat the root causes of poverty and disease in the communities we serve — which sometimes requires interventions beyond our particular expertise. We partner with organizations that bring their expertise to programs that are critical to our success, including construction of community water systems, solar power for our clinics and hospitals, and the creation of microfinance opportunities for the poor.

Check out the full listing of all Devex Top 40 Development Innovators on Facebook.

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