How MedShare Improves Health in Developing Countries

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ATLANTA, Georgia —  Health care inequity is a growing concern among developing countries, worsening global poverty rates as citizens’ health conditions deteriorate. As a consequence, increasingly severe health conditions place a greater burden on countries’ health care systems. The economy suffers too as unwell citizens cannot work or run businesses to contribute to economic growth. Yet, due to poverty, many hospitals in low and middle-income countries lack sufficient resources to provide adequate treatment to patients. To address this issue, A.B. Short and Bob Freeman formed MedShare with the overall aim of improving health conditions in impoverished nations.

Global Health Disparities Among Developing Countries

According to the World Bank, 50% of the world’s population does not have “access to essential health services.” Many developing countries lack the resources to provide citizens with high-quality health care services. In addition, in some developing nations, health care workers lack sufficient training and experience in their professions, leading to incorrect diagnoses and incorrect treatment. In low and middle-income countries, roughly 10% of hospitalized patients face the possibility of contracting an infection during their hospital stay due to lacking infection control practices, inadequate hygiene protocols, untrained staff and more.

Health care inequity is a serious issue that causes an increase in global poverty. Those with low incomes struggle to afford the costs of basic health care. This causes a greater economic burden in the long run with untreated diseases that become more severe and terminal. Countries should prioritize efforts to improve the quality of health care people receive overall to avoid further economic strains on people and health care systems. Although there has been a more global effort to improve cancer and cardiovascular diseases treatment, more action is necessary to improve health care in developing countries.

MedShare’s Mission to Improve Global Health

MedShare, formed in 1998, is a nonprofit that collects donated, unused medical supplies from hospitals across the U.S. and sends them to lower-income countries that lack access to these supplies. The organization runs five programs of assistance covering disaster relief, maternal care, infectious disease prevention, biomedical equipment training and primary care. MedShare’s work benefits 117 countries and has supported almost 830,000 health workers.

In total, MedShare has made more than 1,868 global deliveries of essential medical equipment to date. Besides delivering crucial medical equipment, “MedShare also provided biomedical equipment training” to more than 7,000 healthcare workers across 18 countries. Some of the countries MedShare assisted over the past two decades include Costa Rica, Haiti, Guinea, Ethiopia and Liberia.

Besides working to improve global health, MedShare aims to mitigate the issue of “medical waste” by putting to good use medical supplies that have not yet reached expiration. MedShare’s work also helps the environment by mitigating other public health threats that could emerge as a result of medical waste. In total, MedShare diverted 17.5 million pounds of medical supplies from being dumped into landfills as medical waste.

How MedShare Assists Developing Countries

MedShare’s Director of Programs and Procurement Jason Chernock told The Borgen Project that MedShare becomes aware of the needs of specific countries through a “network of partners.” Chernock specified that MedShare operates on a “push not pull system” where it “hears directly from its recipients.” At that point, it will “respond to the need of the recipient whenever they ask for it.”

In terms of distributing medical supplies to recipients, Chernock says “no one thing is more important than another.” Usually, “personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and surgical gowns” are the supplies that have the highest demand among the 117 countries and territories MedShare assists. However, Chernock indicates that these countries are at the “next level of need” for personal protective equipment now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, demand for syringes has increased as developing countries aim to “advance their vaccination campaigns.”

MedShare’s Greatest Accomplishments

Acquiring more than “$240 million worth of life-saving medical supplies and equipment,” MedShare has changed the lives of millions throughout the past 23 years. Although some projects seem to have a greater impact than others, Chernock says that “no single project” stands as MedShare’s most significant accomplishment. Instead, Chernock explains that the organization’s most remarkable achievement is MedShare’s development of “long-term relationships and partnerships with many hospitals overseas.”

MedShare’s mission has helped health workers in developing countries adopt safer medical practices that help protect patients and prevent the possibility of contracting another illness. This assistance ultimately prevents the possibility of even higher medical bills. Additional medical equipment is also vital for citizens of developing countries to access adequate public health care without needing to resort to the private sector. More affordable health care means greater accessibility, improving the overall health of people and allowing them to thrive as productive citizens who can play a role in contributing to the economy.

– Cristina Velaz
Photo: Flickr

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