Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Putting Pieces Together

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Putting Pieces Together

Article excerpt

Each year, hundreds of health policymakers, researchers, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, activists, corporations, and foundations gather in Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of the Global Health Council. This year, the council, whose mission is "to ensure that all who strive for improvement and equity in global health have the information and resources they need to succeed," chose as its conference theme "Health Systems: Putting Pieces Together."

When diseases like HIV/AIDS are devastating entire populations, when abject poverty pervades most of the world, and when even the most basic of health services are out of reach for the majority, it is often difficult to find anything hopeful to talk about in meetings such as this. With that in mind, I made the trip to Washington expecting to hear much of the usual "head shaking" rhetoric on the appalling state of health care systems in developing countries. I also expected to hear little by way of realistic or concrete proposals for moving forward. I am glad to say that I was wrong.

First, the program itself was a departure from the usual. For instance, skills-building workshops were built around the main program, so that in addition to lectures and presentations, exercises aimed at building technical capacity provided an opportunity for prompt learning. The most interesting of these (for me at least) was a session on the application of quality improvement models in poor countries. There is a pressing need to improve the quality of social services--even within resource-constrained settings--but such strategies have to be homegrown, relevant to the local context, and sustainable. …

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