I have enjoyed working as a public health physician and epidemiologist on global health issues throughout my career. Starting in a tiny village in Burkina Faso where malaria was common, I treated leprosy and tuberculosis in Sierra Leone, and helped to bring Primary Health Care to hundreds of thousands villagers in Cameroon. I like the challenges of exploring ways to improve human health at the same time as conserving our environment. Caring for both seems to make perfect sense, because our health depends so much on clean water and air, and on a diverse plant and animal life. Beside all this, I have a passion for working with numbers, especially to find out whether the programs we implement in the developing world really improve the lives of families, how they work and why.
A visiting UK editor’s impressions of the APHA conference….
I didn’t attend that many scientific sessions at APHA this year, being preoccupied with meetings about Global Health database and visiting exhibitors in the vast exhibition but those I did go to seemed to keep bringing up sanitation and hygiene as the key to so much disease prevention. Its really part of next years’ theme, Water and Health.
Attending the Community-Based Primary Health Care (CBPHC) workshop on Saturday, October 25 at the 136th annual APHA conference, I was reminded of how there truly can be “power in numbers”.
Having worked in domestically in tertiary care at a well-funded institution (basically the opposite of CBPHC) for almost a year now, I searched for common ground with the international community-based primary care group, relying on my relatively brief but highly educative experiences in international public health. I of course am still interested in community health and primary care, but as others noted in an earlier blog entry from this conference, the funding for positions in that field is minimal.
At the workshop on Saturday, I realized just how many dedicated people there are focused on this area, and that our strength is in combining efforts to accomplish our goals. I often witnessed how a group’s synergy can greatly improve its effectiveness and creativity. At the workshop, we split into 3 groups, each one discussing the major actions needed to further the field of CBPHC, including, documentation and dissemination, raising awareness, and finding funding. My group was charged with discussing how to create or find more resources to implement programs in CBPHC. Continue reading “Health Care as a Means to Peace”→
Sometimes I get the question, “So what’s new and innovative in CBPHC?” The answer is that there isn’t anything new, and that’s the point! We already know what we need to do. We have the bullets, as someone said, but the gun seems to be elsewhere or malfunctioning. I think it isn’t that we don’t have the gun. I just think we have misplaced it, or it needs some tinkering to get to work, or we need to remind ourselves how to pull the trigger. I really dislike this analogy for it’s militaristic and violent connotations, but I couldn’t come up with anything better….So, to continue this horrible analogy, we have several bullets and they are inexpensive, tried and true. We know the power of exclusive breastfeeding, good antenatal care, immunizations, long lasting insecticidal nets, good nutrition, and other low cost, low tech interventions in terms of saving lives and improving quality of life. We’ve been talking about this for decades, not just amongst ourselves, the practitioners in the field, but at the highest policy levels. As the September 13-19, 2008 Lancet reminds us, a major milestone, the Alma-Ata Declaration, was issued 30 years ago. So what’s new isn’t the need for what the Alma-Ata Declaration so eloquently calls for, but perhaps it’s the realization that we still haven’t gotten there. In other words, we don’t need innovation. What we need is inspiration and, as Nike so aptly puts it “Just do it!”. Continue reading “Community-Based PHC: So What’s New??”→
Attending the Community-Based Primary Health Care workshop yesterday was one of the most invigorating experiences I have had in quite a long time. It was so fantastic to meet people carrying out work that I have been constantly thinking and talking about the need for. As my colleagues and I struggle to establish a comprehensive community health center in Gatineau, Haiti we are constantly trying to figure out whether or not we are actually implementing best practices. While we all value the importance of making decisions based on evidence and learning from others’ mistakes, it is incredibly challenging to find detailed information. Through this process and past research, I have been made especially aware of the need for more accessible and thorough documentation of both effective and ineffective practices and implementation experiences in global health.
This is not to be unexpected as organizations carrying out this work are usually so over-extended and resource constrained that documenting their processes and practices often becomes low-priority unless it is to meet the requirements of funders. However, when this is the purpose of such documentation the tone changes from factual reporting of successes and failures to trying to demonstrate efficacy so that a donors will keep sending money, so financial survival is not the best motivating factor for the objective documentation needed. In my own experience so far, although we have said that documenting and sharing the entire process of establishing a community health center would be a very useful activity that we would like to do, we have thus far been unable to follow through while dealing with all of the day-to-day logistics of running a clinic, seeking/maintaining funding and the planning of future programs and community organizing. If we had a volunteer historian or could work with students to take the documentation process on as a project for course credit, it might be much more feasible. However, with limited time to coordinate such efforts and so many critical activities competing for our resources, this honestly falls relatively low on our hierarchy of needs.
I was encouraged when I recently heard about the Global Health Delivery Online www.ghdonline.org but somewhat disappointed that it thus far only includes HIV, TB and Technology discussion communities. Understandably, these are in the scope of the founding collaborators’ chief interests but I hope they will continue to expand this venue into other important realms in need of increased attention. Continue reading “APHA San Diego: A passion for Primary Health Care”→
I am a resident in Family and Preventive Medicine, concurrently working towards getting my MPH. I attended the Community Based Primary Health Care (CBPHC) workshop at the American Public Health Association National Conference, which was organized by APHA’s International Health Section on October 25, 2008. Project Concern International (PCI) facilitated the workshop.
We opened by discussing the principles of the 1978 Alma-Ata Conference, which include health as a fundamental human right, equity, and the emphasis on community participation.
We engaged in several spirited group discussions about the role of CBPHC in our own work and ideas for effective behavior change. A highlight was a presentation on the use of TB-Photovoice (http://tbphotovoice.org/tbpv2/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1), a powerful means for creating effective messages of change from those who are most affected by the disease. At the end of the workshop we broke into groups to discuss either the documentation and dissemination of work, how to increase funding, and how to advance knowledge of CBPHC. My group was comprised of documenters and disseminatorsand we discussed starting a new journal that is a forum for talking about projects that are in the works or have been completed — this would allow newcomers to avoid reinventing the wheel, would serve as a forum for old hats to bounce ideas off each other around what did and didn’t work in their projects, and would also provide powerful individual stories, photos, videos, etc. that would assist with funding. The forum would be online, open access and free. Start up funding for such a new journal is actively pursued and hopefully we can capitalize on that. Wikipedia sounded like an option as well. Also, we want to try to connect students and young professionals with project managers so that we can recruit writers! Community-Campus listserv may be the way to go for that connection.
Overall, the workshop was stimulating and exciting – an opportunity to gather a collection of dedicated and passionate professionals to share ideas and projects that serve a common goal.