Eliminating isn’t the end of the road

Determining a new direction for the future for a company is a difficult task. It’s also an enjoyable chance to take a step back and think about the bigger picture and not just look at the things we’re doing, but also on the reasons behind our work in the first place.

It’s a chance to zoom away from our everyday concentration on our upcoming targets and tasks so that we are able to identify significant opportunities to create an impact that lasts. It also helps us avoid being blind to the risks that could impede our progress.

A few years back, my four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, making her completely dependent upon insulin. Our health care provider in the UK gives her access to modern technology that can monitor and adjust her insulin levels at no cost.

While traveling with our family to visit our relatives at Arusha, Tanzania, we looked into the health services available in the region in the event of an emergency. We were shocked to discover that neither insulin nor diabetic care could be found in any local health centers or even with insulin and care from Dar es Salaam was unreliable. The reality for mothers of diabetic children in this region shook me hard.

I was unable to remember all of my health education in public health and thought for a second about trying to carry enough insulin to fill the Arusha region. I knew for certain the fact that it is a long-lasting condition that requires a solid system in place, not just to guarantee a supply of insulin and training and help families and individuals to deal with the challenges that the condition can bring. A one-time supply of insulin to me even if it was worthwhile, will make little difference to the reality of healthcare for people living in the region.

After a long and successful life in health care, this incident has brought the intensity of the inequity in health experienced by many on the level of a personal one.

It made me think about the tasks we perform as an organization.

Many of us working in the field of global health do it because we’re motivated by the desire to ‘do something useful’. It’s easy to overlook that the manner in how we provide this thing might be a part of the issue. What we had to do to improve our work practices was even more important to the changes that we’re making.

What is this in real sense for our work as a company?

It’s not the first time we’ve implemented major changes to the direction of our approach. The strategy was originally designed as a disease control initiative focusing on specific treatments prior to this, our strategy had an approach that was more holistic and included more broad primary prevention and health elements along with our primary focus on massive treatment for parasites.

It is now clear that this shift didn’t take us far enough. The goals and targets laid out in the Sustainable Development Agenda, and by the World Health Organization (WHO) for universal health coverage and ending poverty, fighting inequalities and eradicating diseases requires a more radical change not just in the programs we support as well as the method by which we offer the interventions that we support.

What does this mean for the way we conduct ourselves?

We are satisfied with our accomplishments to date, including helping to provide one billion treatment options against parasitic infections, which was a milestone that was reached during our 20 anniversary. anniversary in the year 2000. This new approach will be based on at its heart the goal to stop preventable parasitic diseases and improve the health of all people, and to help build resilient systems that support healthy living, so that everyone is able to reach their maximum potential.

In reality, this means taking our current heritage and expanding our efforts to cover other critical aspects, such as improving the programme’s quality and effectiveness and facilitating cross-sectoral collaboration. Additionally, it means shifting the power balance which has been a source of instability for health system ownership in countries and resilientness and engraves inequality.

Instead of seeing interventions as the basis for starting rather than as the starting point, we will respond to the needs of our country counterparts in endemic countries to help local health systems to deliver programs that are tailored to the local environment.

They may appear to be simple actions, but they are an important change from the way we’ve operated up to the present. As a partner organisation with a headquarters in a different country than those we work with and whose efforts we are supporting, we need to make sure that the way we work doesn’t result in structures, systems, and power dynamics that hinder what we’re all working to attain.

A lack of offices in countries was a major guiding element of our organization since the beginning, precisely to reduce the risk of creating parallel structures. However, we must further alter our methods and ways of working to completely change and overcome the remaining obstacles to the resilience of health systems as well as country ownership and health equity. The what of what we do is just as equally than the what.

This strategy will involve not only involving new funders, but also helping our country partners in mobilising themselves with their resources. This is a totally different approach however the way we see it, is vital for us to make the positive change we hope to be able to see.

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