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Grameen Health partners leading medical care providers

Sep 25, 2008

Grameen Health, an affiliate of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank has tied up with Pfizer and GE Healthcare to provide cost-effective health care to the country’s poor. The partnership will draw on the success of the microfinance model to build sustainable business models, to be replicated in other developing countries.

Boston: Grameen Health, an affiliate of Grameen Bank, the pioneering micro-financing organisation in Bangladesh that shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for its work to alleviate poverty, has announced independent partnerships with Pfizer Inc., GE Healthcare, and Mayo Clinic to create sustainable models for healthcare delivery in the developing world.

Grameen Health has chosen to work independently with these partners because of their respective expertise: Pfizer Inc is the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company, GE Healthcare is the world’s largest manufacturer of medical devices such as ultrasound and CT/MRI, and Mayo Clinic is the world’s first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice.

“We believe our knowledge and expertise in micro-financing can be applied toward the development of a sustainable health care system”

These multiple, independent collaborations will focus on social business models in which the businesses are self-supporting and any profits are re-invested into the system in order to reach more of the poor.

This approach is cost-effective and maximises the benefits that patients receive. The models will be transferable to other healthcare delivery systems.

Grameen Health aims to extend the success of the microfinance model to health care by designing and developing a bottom-up health care infrastructure built from sustainable best practices around the world.

It aims to bring state-of-the-art health services to all people - particularly poor women and children.

Poor delivery systems

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), among the biggest obstacles to improved health outcomes are inadequate health delivery and financing mechanisms that place the heaviest burden on the poor and sick, who are the least able to pay.

The independent collaborations will initially explore and evaluate ways to improve the existing Grameen Health delivery and financing systems in Bangladesh, with the aim of creating models that can be adapted for the needs of the four billion people around the world whose annual income is less than $3,000.

“As we address the challenges of global health access, we are pleased to partner with these and other organisations that share our belief that solutions to improving access to medicines and healthcare can be socially responsible and sustainable, yet commercially viable,” said Professor Muhammad Yunus, who shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank, which he founded and now directs.

“In Bangladesh, we have found that only an economically viable solution can create the infrastructure needed to enable people to sustain themselves, alleviating the poverty cycle. We believe our knowledge and expertise in micro-financing can be applied toward the development of a sustainable health care system,” he said.

“Solutions to improving access to medicines and healthcare can be socially responsible and sustainable, yet commercially viable”

Social business models

During the next year, the collaborations will focus on the following areas: implementing primary health promotion and disease prevention programs, analysing ways to expand and improve the current low-cost micro-health delivery and insurance programs, developing continuous training programs for nurses, technicians and physicians, reviewing operating efficiencies and scope of services (e.g., telemedicine, mobile health care), introducing genomic, epidemiological, and outcomes research capability for the prevention and treatment of diseases relevant to the population in Bangladesh, with an emphasis on the best use of existing tested and approved procedures and drugs.

Grameen Health and its partners hope to develop appropriate and sustainable models for healthcare delivery and rural primary care clinics, with the goal of replicating these models in other countries.

Pfizer is dedicating key employees to provide technical and advisory support to evaluate Grameen’s existing healthcare delivery systems in Bangladesh.

GE Healthcare will test delivery of ultrasound capability in rural clinics for early detection of abnormalities, and Mayo Clinic will work to improve the training, efficiency, and retention of staff at existing Grameen Health Kalyan clinics.

“Pfizer is honored to work with Grameen to explore the development of non-conventional, efficient and sustainable health financing and delivery models,” said Jean-Michel Halfon, Area President of Canada, Latin America, Africa, and Middle East pharmaceutical operations, Pfizer Inc.

Professor Yunus adds: “Improving health care access and quality worldwide is a huge and long-term project. We would like to invite other partners and thought leaders to join in on the collaboration with Grameen Health, or to create their own social health care business models and share the results with us”.

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