Dr. Louise Ivers, Partners In Health/Zanmi Lasante, Haiti

by Anjali Sastry on February 11, 2009

Dr. Louise Ivers joined us in class today, February 11, 2009.  Here are some notes from our students for their classmates, in advance of her visit: the students designed the preparation themselves.

To prepare, we recommend that all students watch videos and read the accompanying text published here. Students thought that it was especially valuable to watch the video titled “Dr. Louise” — look for it on the right where multimedia items are listed — and to read the Harvard World Media story on Dr. Ivers.

“A Hundred Dead People in My Truck,” which highlights the work of Dr. Ivers, puts her work in the context of other work happening presently in Haiti (the video is about 50 minutes and students found it very interesting): watch here. [Sorry! link broken and we’ve had no luck updatintg, despite contacting the site].

Following Dr. Ivers’ visit, two student teams collaborated to reflect on her visit.  Here is what they had to say:

One of the unique features of the Partners in the Health model is the focus on food and nutrition insecurity. The most common approach to health delivery in the developing world seems to focus exclusively on disease treatment and prevention, but without adequate attention to the effects of malnutrition on disease progress (particularly HIV). As Louise explained, food insecurity drives a number of factors which speed disease progression. The subsequent deterioration in health limits the ability of patients to work, drives social isolation and further malnutrition. The dynamic is simple to understand and easy to see in the developing world, but is not properly addressed by the current structure of many aid programs and healthcare delivery organizations.

This phenomenon supports the need for organizations and programs which drive community development with an integrative approach. One of our group’s partner organizations, ELI in Kenya, sees that addressing multiple community needs at one time increases the effectiveness of each initiative. For example, their clinic improves community health, which allows children to attend school. The agricultural training school they run raises community incomes, allowing families to pay for healthcare and schooling. Without all of these pieces operating in unison, the success of each individual effort (education, health, economic development) is jeopardized.

Another of our partner organizations, Surgeons Overseas, finds a similar need for an integrative approach to healthcare delivery in Sierra Leone. Although Surgeons Overseas’ mission is specific to bringing improved surgical care and surgical resident training to Sierra Leone, the organization finds that the success of this mission requires more than just bringing Western-trained surgeons to Sierra Leone and setting up a residency program. Success of the residency program depends on improving facilities at Connaught Hospital (Surgeons Overseas’ partner facility), improving the management of the hospital, and increasing access to basic medical supplies. For example, prior to Surgeons Overseas’ partnership, Connaught Hospital had to deny surgical treatment to some patients due to shortages of basic supplies such as latex gloves. Surgeons Overseas therefore chose to allocate some of its resources to providing the hospital with an inventory of basic supplies.

Without recognizing the systemic relationship between poverty, health, education and economic development, there is little hope for solving these issues in the developing world. However, creating organizations which can implement this integrative approach is difficult. How do your prioritize initiatives? How do you market the needs of your organization to potential donors? How do you assemble a staff of individuals with such a diverse set of skills and knowledge?

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