Meet MacArthur 100&Change Nominee: The Global Health Collaborative

A Q&A With Dr. Brian Jack

Innovation in health care systems has always been essential to the world – but that importance has rarely been as defined as it is now. In this shifting global health landscape, we were proud to check in with Boston University Department of Family Medicine’s Global Health Collaborative (GHC). This initiative focuses on supporting strong, independent primary health care systems across the world and its program, “Primary healthcare Reducing Inequities through Multilateral Asian-African Regional Initiatives” (PRIMAARI), is one of the finalists for the MacArthur 100&Change competition. For more about GHC, we spoke to IHSIP’s Center for Health System Design & Implementation Director and GHC collaborator Dr. Brian Jack.

Q: Your initiative aims to strengthen health systems worldwide, with a focus on primary health care. Why is primary health care so important to reducing health inequity?

A: Easy access to high-quality primary health care is the first step to a well and equitable society, as well as a universally acknowledged prerequisite for strong health system. Despite this, it hasn’t received the same kind of attention from the global community as health efforts that target specific kinds of care. While supporting this kind of care is essential, strengthening primary health care gives everyone in a nation the opportunity to access a doctor – whether they’re managing a specific illness or simply seeking preventive care. This kind of widely available, general care creates a ripple effect through a society; building not only a healthy community, but also a robust health care network across an entire country.

Q: What sets The Global Health Collaborative (GHC) apart from other global health initiatives?

A: Well, one thing that is unique about us is we don’t actually focus on offering health care services. Instead, our focus is on training and system improvements. This means that we work to help health system administrators cultivate environments in their nations that support the training of new primary health care providers, the development of new ways to deliver primary health care (we’re especially interested in telehealth), and advocate for both policy and financial support of these activities.

Q: What does it mean to empower a nation to strengthen its health system? How does the GHC do that?

A: To us, this means making our own contributions redundant. It involves building skilled and committed systems within the nations we serve. We have built networks of Family Medicine educators and training sites, models of clinical service delivery, and scientific outcomes research programs. For example, in Lesotho we initiated the first doctor training program ever in the country, and our postgraduate training program is the first accredited higher education program ever in the country. We now also oversee the national physician internship program. Programs like these can help keep future health care workers in the country, and help shape a resilient, independent health system. The GHC is just there to help get the ball rolling.

Q: How would support from the MacArthur 100& Change support your work?

A: We entered the 100& Change competition to grow our current programs, launch new programs in Kenya and Malawi, establish regional centers for the promotion of Family Medicine in Vietnam and Lesotho, and establish a global coordinating center for PHC in Boston. If we can even gain support for some of these efforts, it could improve millions of people’s access to quality health care operated by their communities for their communities.

Q: And finally, what’s next for the initiative? How are you handling the current state of our world?

A: Luckily, our next steps are largely getting to work on the goals I shared above. We’re working hard on applying to smaller scale grants to support our goals. Additionally, though, we’re are now using our education networks and the graduates of the training programs to assist the Ministries of Health to organize a coordinated response to COVID-19.

For more information on the MacArthur 100&Change Competition’s top entries, including The Global Health Collaborative, explore the Lever For Change Bold Solutions Network.

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