Partners In Health (PIH)

Our mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. By establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations based in settings of poverty, Partners In Health strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair. We draw on the resources of the world's leading medical and academic institutions and on the lived experience of the world's poorest and sickest communities. At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone. When our patients are ill and have no access to care, our team of health professi...
Mar 17, 2014

Maternal Mortality Reduction - March 2014 Update

Dear Supporter,

I’m writing to give you an update on our work to save mothers’ lives, and to show what you’ve helped accomplish as a Partners In Health supporter. Every day, thanks to your generosity, Partners In Health (PIH) is working to bring care to the people who need it most. And no patient we serve needs access to care more than a woman in labor.

Amazingly, in 2014, women still die in childbirth—nearly 800 every day. Almost all of these women live in poor countries. In the U.S., death during childbirth was all but eradicated at the turn of the 20th century. In fact, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where I serve as faculty, was founded in 1832 as the “Boston Lying-in Hospital.” Why? Because 150 years ago in the U.S., we recognized the need for women to be close to care when delivering their babies—close to doctors and nurses and close to facilities if surgical care was needed.

In the countries where we work, from Haiti, to Malawi, to Lesotho, we’re still working to spread this high level of care. And together with partners like you, we’re moving toward a future with zero maternal deaths—providing the first-rate health care every woman deserves, no matter where they live, and no matter where they’re from.

This past fall, my colleagues released the inaugural edition of PIH Reports, a series exploring innovations in global health care. The first report, The Role of Maternity Waiting Homes as Part of a Comprehensive Maternal Mortality Reduction Strategy in Lesotho, provides an in-depth look at how maternity waiting homes at remote clinics in Lesotho are increasing the number of facility-based deliveries, making childbirth safer in a country burdened with significant challenges. Per every 100,000 live births, 620 women will die in this tiny African kingdom, where rugged, mountainous terrain and a high burden of HIV present unique hardships. And to provide maternal health care to mothers across the nation, we’ve joined key partners to develop an all-inclusive strategy to save women’s lives.

In this report, we share the effectiveness of maternity waiting homes as part of this strategy to reduce maternal mortality. These homes allow women in Lesotho to make the rigorous trek a week or two before they anticipate going into labor. Once there, a woman can relax for the remainder of her pregnancy, knowing she’s only a few yards from trained medical professionals, needed equipment, and medicines. 

And to ensure a safe pregnancy and delivery for expectant mothers in Lesotho, we’ve developed a comprehensive plan—from the community health workers who accompany them to prenatal appointments, to the waiting houses, to the midwives, nurses, and doctors who provide safe deliveries at the health center. And these clinic-based deliveries, with medical staff at the ready and adequate supplies in tow, can be the difference between life and death. I’m excited to report that at the PIH-supported clinic in the village of Bobete, where this comprehensive approach was launched, the number of facility-based deliveries has increased 370 percent since 2009.

If you are interested in reading the report in full, you can download it on our website at http://www.pih.org/knowledge-center.

At PIH, we won't settle for a world where mothers die for lack of access to health care. Instead, we’ll expand our work to provide prenatal care, safe deliveries, and crucial family planning to women across the countries where we work—bringing the fruits of medical science to some of the world’s poorest, hardest to reach communities.

On behalf of my colleagues and partners, please accept my sincere thanks for your support and for believing in us.

Sincerely,

Dr. Joia Mukherjee
Chief Medical Officer

Feb 27, 2014

Malnutrition in Haiti: Feb 2014 Update

Photo: Rebecca E. Rollins/Partners In Health
Photo: Rebecca E. Rollins/Partners In Health
A young woman has her upper-arm circumference measured at Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, in Mirebalais, Haiti, to help determine whether she's malnourished. 

Need to Know: MUAC and Malnutrition

Spend a day at any Partners In Health site and there’s a good chance you’ll hear a phrase you’re unfamiliar with. Perhaps it’s a clunky acronym or polysyllabic drug name. But don’t worry: Keeping up with the ever-evolving world of global health is hard, even for insiders. In Need to Know, we cut through the complexity and deliver the most pertinent and interesting information on a single subject. Today, we fill you in on mid-upper arm circumference.

What is it?

Mid-upper arm circumference, often shortened to MUAC, is a measurement that allows health workers to quickly determine if a patient is acutely malnourished. PIH, as well as many other organizations, measures the circumference of a patient’s arm at the midpoint between his or her shoulder and elbow.

Why is it important?

The burden of malnutrition is staggering. According to a recent series of articles in The Lancet, more than 3 million child deaths every year are associated with malnutrition. Put another way, nearly half of all children who die each year die because they don’t have access to enough of the right food. Our health workers in Haiti, Malawi, Lesotho, and Rwanda, among other locations, encounter malnourished patients every day. MUAC provides a fast and effective first-line screening method.

How do you make the measurement?

There are specific paper MUAC bands that are color-coded. If the girth of the patient arm falls within the green part of the band, it indicates that the patient is not malnourished. A measurement that falls within the yellow part of the band indicates that the patient may be at risk of malnutrition. Lastly, the red portion of the band indicates that the patient is severely malnourished and at risk of death. Some bands include a fourth color, orange, which indicates the patient is moderately malnourished.

What happens after the measurement is taken?

Well, that depends on the measurement. Generally, if a child is malnourished, we provide treatment with ready-to-use therapeutic food, commonly known as RUTF. These foods are high in fat and protein and fortified with the vitamins and minerals necessary to treat severe acute malnutrition. A few weeks of treatment with RUTF can bring about significant improvements. PIH will often take steps to improve the long-term food security of patients’ families. This might include enrolling people in job training, delivering food assistance, or providing materials for farming.

Malnutrition is a complex problem. Is a paper arm band all you’re using in the fight against it?

Absolutely not. MUAC is an immensely helpful tool but it’s not foolproof. For instance, a simple arm measurement doesn’t tell us whether a patient has kwashiorkor, or protein malnutrition. Furthermore, the accuracy of MUAC diminishes as the child ages. That’s why we’re constantly devising and implementing new ways to alleviate the root causes of malnutrition and catch malnourished children earlier. In Malawi, for instance, we partnered with TOMS to combine the distribution of new TOMS shoes with malnutrition screenings. This approach has allowed us to screen more than 1,000 children, including 70 in need of malnutrition treatment. Meanwhile, in Haiti, we’re deploying mobile health clinics that travel into isolated regions to find patients who have the hardest time accessing medical services.  MUAC is merely one part of a comprehensive strategy that helps us make proper diagnoses and act accordingly.

Feb 10, 2014

Support children in Malawi - Feb. 2014 Update

Thank you for contributing to Partners In Health's Support school costs for children in rural Malawi project on Global Giving. I encourage you to take a minute to read this brief story about a beneficiary of the program -- Chifunilo.  With your help, we are providing the basic tools and resources for children like Chifunilo to succeed, thus breaking the cycle of poverty and disease, one community at a time. 

Chifunilo lives in rural Lumbe village with his four younger siblings and grandmother. At 17 years old, he is in Form 2 and says “without POSER’s support, I wouldn’t be in school at this time.”  He has been receiving support from POSER for three years – since Standard 8 – and all of his siblings are also beneficiaries. This assistance is critical for the family, because as Chifunilo says “even to get soap my family had to do piecework. My grandmother relies on farming, but it is difficult because she is aging. After school we go to the garden to help her.” However, with support, Chifunilo is doing well in school and is thinking about his future. His favorite subjects are Geography, English, and Mathematics, because with Geography “I know about the location of other places, other countries, and about their natural resources.” With good math skills, he knows it “will make it easy for me to be an accountant or to work in the bank.” One day, he “would like to work in an office, especially to work on a computer… I am dreaming of work[ing] in an office like this one. I would like to do the job you are doing yourself, because you are helping us.”

POSER reaches 2,000 vulnerable children in the district each year through its school support initiative. 200 of these are secondary school students, like Chifunilo.  These students, in addition to the fee payments to their schools, also receive uniforms, math instruments, rulers, notebooks, and pens. Staff members also build strong connections with the students to support their psychosocial health and provide mentorship and support.

APZU will continue to welcome donations to cover the costs of school fees and materials for secondary school students. Zikomo kwambiri to everyone who has supported this project! You are helping to make a critical difference for children in Neno. 

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