healthcare innovation in the developing world

by Anjali Sastry on April 13, 2010

Here’s how Lord Nigel Crisp put it in a January 2010 Times opinion piece:

In temporary clinics in the slums of Asia and rundown hospitals in Africa I met remarkable people who were finding new solutions and working out how to use the materials at hand to provide for patients……Unconstrained by our history, they train people differently, create new sorts of organisations, involve families and communities and concentrate more on promoting health rather than on just tackling disease. They don’t have our resources or our baggage.

Most challenging of all are the questions about resources. What should we learn about training health workers and introducing technology — or are we content to stick with professional structures and working arrangements created 50 years ago?

Governments and leaders who know how hard it is to make changes should take heart from one group. Many young health professionals are very interested in global health and eager to experience and learn from poor countries as well as to acquire the knowledge and skills of richer ones. They are gaining the all-round expertise that will help them to become the health professionals we need for the 21st century.

The former chief executive of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and Permanent Secretary of its Department of Health has a new book out in which he links what he learned from running the largest health system in the world and to his insights from working on global health.

The theme was taken up in a recent piece from Kaiser Health News exploring developing nations as laboratories for health care innovation. Can we look abroad for health care lessons? Check out the examples in the article, and tell us what you think.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Teh, MBBS, MSc, CPHQ January 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm

We can learn a lot from one another. But, as others have pointed out, things that work in one place might not necessarily work in another for a variety of reasons, including differences in culture, available technology, expertise, priorities, etc. On the other hand, they just might – adopting, adapting or abandoning tests of change are key (which require a separate skills set). Don Berwick, the Administrator of CMS, wrote a nice piece in the BMJ a few years ago (when he was the President of the IHI) on what we can learn from developing nations on improving health care.

Heather May 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

As the article mentions it is certainly difficult to understand what should be part of global health care delivery trainings. In taking classes in global health there is seemingly still a gap in the learning overall. Although there are some frameworks, it seems there is little feedback generated in the general discussion on what worked in different situations and what didn’t. There are few examples that guest speakers (leaders in their respective fields) have mentioned that have truly been successful. Knowledge management is a critical gap in many industries but it seems to have an even greater divide in global health. Part of it I am sure is that people are focusing their efforts on the group but now that a greater discussion is being had at how to better enable management, I am looking forward to seeing how the field develops.

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