According to the WHO, noncommunicable diseases (NCD), primarily cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are responsible for 63% of all deaths worldwide. 80% of NCD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. While the mortality rate remains high, NCDs are preventable through effective interventions that tackle shared risk factors.
Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Trustee of the Novartis Foundation, recently wrote:
“Health systems in [developing countries] are ill-equipped to address this emergency. They are stretched under the pressure of fighting infectious diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, which still make up a majority of deaths in much of the developing world. It will take decades before sufficient health coverage is achieved that can adequately address the scale of the NCD epidemic. We need a new approach hks1njv.
We can draw some useful lessons from how HIV/AIDS patients were empowered to manage their condition. AIDS was the first experience of managing a ‘chronic’ condition that many low-and middle-income countries had. With the introduction of antiretroviral therapy from the mid-1990s the life expectancy of many AIDS patients increased. Many were able to return to their lives and families instead of being hospital-bound.
Faced with the prospect of having to care for these patients for potentially a very long time, public health systems mobilised to empower AIDS patients to self-manage their condition with appropriate support from their physicians. This shift to a patient-centered approach – taking chronic care outside of the formal healthcare system and hospitals, and into the community and families – has eased the burden of tackling the epidemic and led to precious resources reaching more people.”
This is where innovation in healthcare can contribute to solving the NCD problem. C2C has developed a health care delivery system that is built around patients. Our patient-centered care model is often the point-of-entry to the care system for vulnerable people and families. We respond to local health needs by drawing on communication between the community and the clinic. At C2C, we believe that this approach is fundamental to effective primary care as we help Haitian families get well and stay healthy.
Entrepreneurs love the concept of disruption in the market. Silicon Valley defines “disruption” as a simpler, cheaper or more convenient alternative to an existing system or product. When it comes to delivering quality healthcare in the developing world, disruption simply isn’t the answer.
Dr. Caroline Buckee said it best in her Boston GlobeOp-ed: “When it comes to addressing epidemics — and a lot of other global challenges — the Silicon Valley startup mentality doesn’t work.” Disruption has become a trend in many spaces among innovators. As for the global health care space, we see more grant guidelines calling for this sort of mentality and problem-solving. While it’s important to encourage innovation in healthcare, we should keep in mind that health care delivery, when supported, is an effective solution to saving lives. As Dr. Margaret Chan, World Health Organization Director-General once said, “a primary health care approach is the most effective way to organize a health system.” At Care 2 Communities, we believe that primary care works. When patients have access to high-quality, affordable, reliable healthcare, it means that mothers are able to care for their children, children can stay in school, and the entire community benefits economically from a healthy workforce.
On an unseasonably warm Saturday morning on the Boston Common, I joined 195,000+ other concerned Americans to show support and solidarity for the principles of the Women’s March. Digging deep into our revolutionary roots (some called it the Boston She Party), we sang, carried signs and basked in the sea of sisterhood. We did not march as sore losers in the political election but stood together to protect fundamental human rights and that includes the rights of all women.
Ten days earlier, I joined a film crew in Haiti to document the story of C2C’s head nurse, Herlande Duvot. As one of the first C2C employees in northern Haiti, Herlande’s success story has been an integral part of C2C’s success story. She is a clinician and a thought leader, helping us build a sustainable model for community health. A cornerstone of C2C’s mission is access to reproductive health care and Herlande manages C2C’s family planning and women’s health programs – the very services that are under threat in the U.S. Although the Haitian Ministry of Health tries to provide free family planning products to its population, it often falls short due to transportation, supply, and logistical issues. This is where C2C steps in: we prioritize family planning for women and ensure that health care services, education, and products are available to both women and men.
On January 21st, I locked arms with women I had never met on one side and members of my faith community on the other. I felt supported in doing the hard work of protecting fundamental rights in a changing world. I have always known that women in Haiti want the same opportunities we want for our children here in the U.S., but when they struggle to access family planning services, choices can be hard. So as I marched to protect the rights of my daughter, myself, and millions of other Americans, I also marched for women in Haiti knowing that polices made in the U.S. will trickle down to affect them too and we will continue to march until all women can keep their bodies safe and protected.