FAIRFIELD, Connecticut – Developing Health Globally (DHG), a philanthropic arm of General Electric (GE), is one of the major players in health development today. Since 2004, the organization has invested over $40 million in over 100 hospitals and clinics in 13 countries and helped about 4.5 million people in the process. Not only that, but they’ve established a robust model for health development that focuses on local initiatives and sustainability.
For a health professional walking into a clinic in a country like Ethiopia, the problems seem too numerous to count. Limited access to medical equipment, malfunctioning tools, and poorly trained staff seem to be the norm, particularly in outlying health centers. Every year, millions of young children and women die from preventable diseases and childbirth issues in clinics like these. Where do you begin?
DHG’s answer: partner with existing health ministries, identify the greatest needs, and make immediate investments in crucial areas like air conditioning, water filtration, and basic medical equipment. In other words, they walk in as the bankrollers for the most urgent medical needs in rural communities. But that’s not where their approach stops.
The problem is not usually just poor equipment, it’s an inability to use and repair them. The World Health Organization reports that at least half the medical equipment in rural health facilities is unserviceable at any given time. As such, DHG invests in training programs that teach local medical staff over 100 basic techniques to repair medical apparatus. Techniques involve using spare car bulbs to replace operating lights or using bottle cap liners as washers for moving machine parts.
A recent study by Duke University found that hospitals with training from DHG had more than double the number of working tools and were about one-third more likely to resolve problems with malfunctioning equipment. The key is sustainability: subsequent generations of medical staff will receive these skills long after GE has left.
On July 1, GE announced an expansion of its program to Myanmar with an up-front investment of $3 million in basic infant and maternal care: handheld ultrasounds, infant warmers, LED phototherapy devices, and more.
– John Mahon