As I take the helm at FHI 360, I find myself reflecting on John Norris’ authoritative history of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), The Enduring Struggle. It points to the many accomplishments made possible through the funding and genius of USAID and its countless partners around the world. FHI 360 has contributed greatly to many of these successes, most notably in health, where we have helped combat deadly diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV and made modern contraceptives widely accessible.
Strengthening health systems comes down to staff, stuff, space, systems and support. Whether providing primary care or responding to deadly outbreaks of infectious diseases, a holistic approach that places the patient and their community at the center of care and treatment is essential. In this episode, Dr. Paul Farmer and I discuss how human connection and authentic partnership should remain at the center of public health and human development work.
Dr. Paul Farmer is the Co-Founder, Chief Strategist and Chair of the Board of Trustees of Partners in Health, and a medical anthropologist, physician and author. His most recent book is Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History. His positive approach to disrupting under-resourced and poorly performing health systems is simple yet holistic: Address unmet needs for staff, stuff, space, systems and support.
A version of this post originally appeared on K4 Health Blog. Reposted with permission.
She stood there, in beautiful red robes, with a small, serene baby bound firmly to her back. “This document is our bible,” the woman said as she cradled the green volume, in a way that was both matter-of-fact and full of awe. The book she was referring to is the vastly popular collaboration between WHO, USAID, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public of Health: Family Planning: a Global Handbook for Providers. “The Handbook,” as it is known around the world, was first published in 2007 and has been updated with new content this year. More than 500,000 paper copies have been distributed, with tens of thousands of electronic copies downloaded and distributed on CDs and flash drives. The Handbook has also been translated into nine languages.
Here in Dakar, at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning, the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project, led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs (JHU•CCP), has distributed thousands of updated Handbooks in French and English, and taken orders for tens of thousands more. But this Conference has also provided us the opportunity to broaden the reach of this critical content, by launching a portfolio of technology-based versions of the manual.
During the Conference, the K4Health Project launched the English and French versions of the Handbook in EPUB and Kindle formats, allowing the handbook to be read on a variety of platforms including iPads, iPhones, Kindles, and other eReaders. Perhaps the most exciting product release was the first version of K4Health’s Android App for Contraceptive Eligibility (ACE), based on the Contraceptive Eligibility Criteria from the Handbook. ACE allows a healthcare provider to quickly and simply identify the most appropriate contraceptive methods depending on a woman’s health conditions. Alternately, it can also be used by a provider to learn more about any of the contraceptive methods in the manual, their effectiveness, and their side effects. “This is incredible,” said a young man from Ghana who supervises a cadre of community health workers. “This means that we can carry the handbook in our pockets, even when there is no Internet or mobile connection.”
At K4Health, we strive to combine appropriate information technology with knowledge management best practices to ensure that the right information is made available to the right people at the right time in the right format. We believe that by making this seminal text available through a variety of formats, we can contribute to expanding access for service providers and health workers at all levels of the health system. This will improve knowledge and best practices about Family Planning and Reproductive Health, thereby expanding awareness about choices that women have to make informed decisions about their lives, their families, and their futures.
The Knowledge for Health (K4Health) project is a leader in health information dissemination using traditional and new media mechanisms and in facilitating information use through dynamic learning and exchange programs. K4Health is implemented by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communication Programs in partnership with FHI 360 and Management Sciences for Health. Find more information about K4Health here.