We are enabling rural people suffering from chronic non-communicable diseases to receive essential care near to their homes from health workers who are appropriately trained and continuously supported to develop their skills. Chronic diseases are a major cause of death and disability in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In Ethiopia many premature deaths occur due to conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension and chronic respiratory diseases.
The treatment gap (the number of those with chronic diseases who do not receive treatment expressed as a a percentage of the estimated whole) is unacceptably high for many rural people in Ethiopia. For example, epilepsy goes untreated and its stigma unchallenged, meaning that patients cannot lead a normal life. Patients with diabetes do not receive essential care which could prevent serious complications.
THET has been working for over 20 years with two rural medical schools in Gondar and Jimma to decentralise care from hospitals to rural health centres near patients' homes, saving them the cost of travel and loss of work. In the Jimma area, care for chronic diseases is now provided in eight health centres, and around Gondar, there are nine. Some were added at the request of communities because they had seen the difference that treatment made to their friends and family.
An outstanding Ethiopian physician, Dr Yoseph, with long experience in chronic diseases, including seven years in Jimma, is extending this work locally and nationally as an integral part of the regular health service. This approach will help to build an equipped and integrated workforce for the longer term. This model of care for the rural poor is embedded within the national service and will also act as a catalyst for further staff development.