Each year the Skoll Centre invites a small number of Oxford students to the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. Each year they share their unique perspectives of the sessions and events that unfold during this magical time in Oxford.
This session conducted by the leadership team of Partners in Health was scheduled for 7 am on the 10th of April. Hence by design it self-selected for individuals who were extremely motivated to learn from the experience of Partners in Health in Global Health Delivery.
Partners in Health (PIH) is a Boston-based
nonprofit health care organization founded in 1987 by Paul Farmer, Ophelia
Dahl, Thomas J. White, Todd McCormack, and Jim Yong Kim.
The organization’s goals are “to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair.” It provides healthcare in the poorest areas of developing countries. It builds hospitals and other medical facilities, hires and trains local staff, and delivers a range of healthcare, from in-home consultations to cancer treatments.
The session delved into a nuance in global
health delivery which are often ignored. Dr. Mukherjee asserted that the
successful delivery of healthcare ought to be reviewed through three lenses.
A justice framework
Human rights framework
Social determinants of health framework
The first two are not given their due share
of discussion since perhaps as healthcare professionals we feel this is beyond
our scope of work however, they are essential to an equitable delivery of good
health for all.
The justice framework requires
retrospective reflection. Many of the inequities we observe as global health
delivery agents are not just because people who we aim to benefit do not know
better or that there is lack of will to correct the structural problems that
exist. Instead, the source of these issues come from a history of colonization,
practices of slavery and exploitation of certain regions by others. The damage
from these unfortunate parts of our collective history is immense. While these
chapters of history cannot be undone, it would not be prudent to completely
forget about these issues as important causative factors towards why certain
regions struggle to this day with diseases that the developed world has long
overcome. Hence, keeping them in our purview as we think about global health
would ensure such injustices are never repeated.
The second framework is the human rights framework. Today we live in a world where almost everything we do, any service we receive or any item we own has input from many different regions. This is especially more applicable to the socioeconomic strata attending this forum or can read this narrative that I write today. When we live in a globalized world of commerce then a question that arises is why our human rights are different depending on national borders. What would be considered exploitation in one country would be considered fair trading practices in another. The world is much more comfortable with utilitarian notions of healthcare service delivery for the poor but not the same yardstick is applied to the wealthy. These are deep-seated, class-based biases that ought to be brought out in the fore and the repercussions of these biases need to be corrected or else the inequities we wish to overcome will always plague us in some way or form. This philosophy of healthcare delivery is reflected in the work of Partners in Health throughout the world. They believe all that they interact within their ecosystems are owed a similar chance towards healthcare services.
Finally, the social determinants of health were
also discussed. This is an area quite often discussed and debated on in Global
Health conversations. The impact of where you are born, your gender, your
education and such all impact health outcomes. This has been researched and
well documented. Dr. Mukherjee added a nuance to this conversation though. She proposed
that instead of calling it social determinants of health we should label this
effect the social forces of health
since these socioeconomic markers are not just a correlation but have vector
component to them as well hence the relabeling to a “force” would more
accurately depict the relationship.
One of the key takeaways from this session was that healthcare is clearly a political and a social issue. And in our respective communities, to enable meaningful healthcare change we must interact deeply with the social and political forces. Meaningful change requires mobilization and that’s only possible once we put our skin in the game by operating beyond our healthcare facilities and embed ourselves intimately with the wider community.
About the Author
Mohsin Mustafa is an Oxford MBA candidate, a Skoll Scholar and Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust Scholar. He is also an entrepreneur who is passionate about the provision of quality primary healthcare. He sees the provision of quality healthcare as a way of enabling social justice and that’s what fuels his passion for work. Mohsin is the co-founder and managing director of Clinic5, an affordable healthcare delivery service for communities in Pakistan. He is currently a Skoll Scholar, Weidenfeld-Hoffman Scholar and MBA candidate at the Saïd Business School.