Geneva Health Forum Focuses on Health Workers

Dr. Evan LeeToday's guest blog comes from Lilly's Vice President of Global Health Programs and Access, Dr. Evan Lee. 

Lilly is participating in the Geneva Health Forum this week, a vibrant annual forum on pressing global health issues. This session will build on last year’s exchange on non-communicable diseases with a focus that includes the challenges frontline health workers face -- covering topics such as primary care, health services integration, and global health governance. Practitioners and academics from diverse fields will discuss strategies to integrate care and empower health workers at the forefront of global health initiatives in a rapidly evolving environment. 

These are issues where Lilly has had the opportunity to work with capable partners to address some of these challenges in the field and on the frontlines. For example, since 2011, we have been working in South Africa with the Donald Woods Foundation, Project HOPE and the Lilly NCD Partnership. In our work with Donald Woods, we have zeroed in on the Eastern Cape, a largely rural province on the country’s southeastern shore with very limited access to healthcare- people who require hospital-level care may have to travel up to 60 miles.

To address this gap in healthcare, locals in Mbashe, one of the municipalities, have been trained as community health workers that travel from home to home to test people for diabetes, educate families and raise awareness, and get people into the formal health system where their care and progress can be tracked -- and data can be centrally analyzed to inform better healthcare policy. This is an approach that the Donald Woods Foundation has used successfully in the Eastern Cape for management of HIV/AIDS.

It’s an approach that has proven so effective, in fact, that through the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership, we recently expanded our work with the DWF to support the South African government’s national initiative to decentralize multidrug-resistant TB treatment.  

Together we are working through small, local clinics and rapid-response mobile teams, in conjunction with the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Health, to proactively bring TB care and services to vulnerable communities. These frontline health workers are educating communities, testing for TB, administering medications, and ensuring patients complete a full treatment course to guard against drug resistance.

We look forward to sharing experiences like these with other Geneva Health Forum participants and learning from their work as well. One of the most exciting aspects of the forum is that it brings diverse actors and new ideas from different fields to bear on global health challenges. So it’s always a great learning experience that informs our thinking as we refine and expand our global health programs.