February 19, 2010

Sustainability key to success of global health efforts: panel

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Panelists at last week’s Tennessee Global Health Forum included, from left, the Rev. Becca Stevens, Hugh Wright, D.D.S., and Muktar Aliyu, M.D., Dr. P.H. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Sustainability key to success of global health efforts: panel

Muktar Aliyu, M.D., Dr.P.H., is proud of what he's accomplished for his native Nigeria as founding director of an HIV treatment and prevention program affiliated with Vanderbilt University.

Established last year, the Friends in Global Health HIV project in Nigeria has tested about 8,000 people for HIV, treated more than 300 patients, and set up about 10 clinics in two Nigerian states.

Yet Aliyu said that what keeps him awake at night is whether the government of Nigeria will commit to continuing these programs over the long term.

“This is a big opportunity to contribute to a part of the world that is not as privileged as we are,” he said last week during the second annual Tennessee Global Health Forum, a community event hosted by the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health. Yet “at some point we will have to devise how we can sustain what looks like an unsustainable arrangement … (to) foster a system where there is accountability.”

Aliyu, a medical doctor who has masters and doctoral degrees in public health, is an assistant professor of Preventive Health at Vanderbilt. He participated in a panel discussion entitled “The Global/Local Connection: Models and Methods for Successful Projects in Global Health.”

Carole Etherington, M.S.N., R.N., left, looks on as the Rev. Becca Stevens makes a point during the symposium. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Carole Etherington, M.S.N., R.N., left, looks on as the Rev. Becca Stevens makes a point during the symposium. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Other panelists were:

• Janet L. Jones, B.S.N., president and CEO of Alive Hospice of Nashville;

• Becca Stevens, M.Div. chaplain of St. Augustine's Chapel at Vanderbilt, and founder and executive director of Magdalene, a residential community for women who have survived lives of violence, addiction and prostitution; and

• Hugh Wright, D.D.S., who with his wife, Sally, are the Middle Tennessee volunteer coordinators for Heifer International, which provides livestock and plants to help people in resource-poor countries support themselves.

The theme of this year's forum, held at the Vanderbilt Student Life Center, was “Building Sustainable Programs in Global Health.”

Like its sister program in Mozambique, the Friends in Global Health project in Nigeria is supported by the U.S. government through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

It partners with the Nigerian government, local public health officials and with other non-profit organizations to expand desperately needed HIV services. An estimated 2.6 million Nigerians were living with HIV in 2007, according to the United Nations.

Sustainability was also the theme of the keynote address given by Ahvie Herskowitz, M.D., senior adviser to Medicines360, a non-profit pharmaceutical company he and his wife, Victoria Hale, Ph.D., established last year to address women's health inequities

Medicines360 has partnered with a European pharmaceutical company to develop a long-acting and reversible IUD contraceptive. The goal is to use some of the profits from commercial sales in wealthier countries to subsidize sales at an affordable price to women in the developing world.
Medicines360 is the second non-profit pharmaceutical company founded by Herskowitz and Hale in the past decade.

Their first “social enterprise,” the Institute for OneWorld Health, is currently working with pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs to prevent dehydration caused by diarrheal diseases, which kill nearly 2 million children every year.

In introducing Herskowitz, James Schorr, MBA, clinical professor of Management in the Owen Graduate School of Management, described social enterprises as “socially purposed organizations that leverage the power of the markets to provide solutions that are often more effective, more efficient and more sustainable than traditional government and nonprofit approaches.”

They also can teach the United States a thing or two, Herskowitz said.

“The cleverness of our colleagues throughout the developing world is immensely satisfying to witness and to learn from,” he said. “And the way they do quality health care in these countries will, I believe, teach us how to deliver quality health care in our society, because we clearly don't have all the answers ourselves.”

Bill Snyder contributed to this story