In The New Yorker, Partners in Health co-founder Dahl on impoverished Haiti: “To have seen this and to not do anything, I knew wasn’t an option.”

The New Yorker offers a profile of Ophelia Dahl, the daughter of celebrity parents who want on to help found Boston-based Partners in Healthheader-logo-orange. That group describes its mission this way: “We go. We make house calls. We build health systems. We stay. ”

Development organizations will donate something finite, even if it’s redundant, rather than something essential but ongoing; thus, a community might receive a bathroom, a handwashing sign, or a thousand packets of oral-rehydration salts, instead of salaries for trained nurses, or, say, electricity. “There are endless examples of bigger interventions—like a hospital—in the middle of nowhere, and it falls apart because it hasn’t been built within a community of trained people, or with the normal pipeline for overhead and upkeep,” Dahl said. If a hospital is erected, but there is no running water or sewage system—to say nothing of diagnostic equipment or personnel who can operate it—it is as useless as a bucket of water without soap. Consequently, Partners in Health often helps supply things that fall outside a medical-aid organization’s typical purview, such as bridges and satellite dishes and gasoline. “These things need to be done in order for people to have a reasonable chance of being healthy,” Dahl said, “and not being . . . dead.”

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Partners in Health calls for community health worker networks fight ebola

Leave it to Dr. Paul Farmer to use the word “optimistic” in reference to the Ebola epidemic. Writing in the Globe op/ed section, he and Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer of Partners in Health, call for the kind of community health worker programs they use to fight another raging epidemic — drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Community care could, when coupled with infection control, stop the epidemic. Of course, the region needs more treatment units for the sort of care that can only be provided in an in-patient setting. And hospital care can be improved long-term only by training and equipping Sierra Leoneans and Liberians: the staff and the “stuff” required to save lives. But it also needs to provide the tools that smaller clinics and front line health workers need to fight the virus in their neighborhoods and villages…

Years ago, when Partners in Health first engaged in fighting another deadly epidemic — drug-resistant tuberculosis — our colleague Jim Yong Kim (now president of the World Bank) and others referred to it as “Ebola with wings.” We learned then, in settings from the slums of Lima to the mountains of Lesotho, that community-based care, delivered in large part by community health workers, was not only safer than facility-based care, it was also more effective. This was true when caregivers had the staff, stuff, space, and systems required to prevent, diagnose, and treat tuberculosis with the tools of the trade. “Community-based care” does not mean “community-based no care”: that, we’re providing already, and at large scale

Partners in Health patron Tom White dies at 90

There would probably be no Partners in Health without Tom White, the Boston builder turned philanthropist who died yesterday.  He not only seeded the bold medical aid group, White believed in them when no in public health did. In today’s Globe obit, Dartmouth president and PIH founder Jim Kim called White “the real patron saint of hopeless causes. “He allowed us to tackle what are quite literally the most difficult health problems in the world,’’ including drug-resistant TB and untreated HIV. (Kim named his son after White.)

White in Haiti © PIH

In addition to the Globe story, see PIH’s own tributes, including one from Tracy Kidder, who followed PIH doc Paul Farmer around for a year for the book “Mountains Beyond Mountain.”

Recalling his first meetings with Paul Farmer, Tom said, “Paul was a lot younger than me, but he was way ahead of me, on service to the poor.” He smiled and went on, with a trace of wistfulness in his voice: “Sometimes I think how much money I used to have, before I met Paul Farmer.” Then he added, “But that’s all right. They give me a big steak now, and I can only eat half of it.” 

More here, including pictures.

US surgeons, hospitals needed to treat Haitian earthquake survivors

Even if the earthquake had left Haiti’s health care system intact, the hospitals and providers there would be in crisis. The country never had the resources to treat the volume and complexity of the patients now dying at their doors. Massive injuries, a nonfunctioning trauma system and extreme poverty. A nightmare of pain and grief for thousands.(For details see the Globe’s coverage of the scene and the medical teams on the way. NPR also reports.

Partners in Health, with its deep in-country presence, is on the ground. The group is looking for U.S. hospitals to take patients who need treatment right away, according to the Globe.  (PIH regularly bring Haitians to Boston hospitals for complex care.)

At the moment, PIH is most in need of people who can offer surgical skills or supplies. Money is good too. From PIH’s Stand With Haiti page.

We are deeply grateful for the multitude of people who have contacted us wanting to provide medical assistance, medicine and supplies. While we wish we could use all of the support so generously offered, we urgently need the following:

Orthopedic surgeons, trauma surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, OR nurses, post-op nurses, and surgical technicians. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate any volunteers without significant surgical or trauma training and experience. If your qualifications match our needs, please fill out this form.

Orthopedic supplies, surgical consumables (sutures, bandages, non-powdered sterile gloves, syringes, etc), blankets, tents, and large unopened boxes of medications. Unfortunately, we cannot accept small quantities or unused personal medications. People with private planes willing to fly medical personnel and/or large quanities of supplies are also greatly needed. To donate any of the above goods, please fill out this form.