Faith-based Global Health, Health Systems Strengthening, Sponsor

Partnering with FBOs to Go Further

June 1, 2022

by Guest Contributor

by Harald Nusser, Vice President of Global Patient Solutions, Gilead Sciences

It may look a little strange to see a CCIH blog post from someone who works for a commercial company. I do not, though, believe we can live our lives as Christians on Sunday and business people the other six days of the week.

The great Quaker merchant and spiritual writer John Woolman wrote in 1763, “As Christians, all we possess are the gifts of God. Now in distributing it to others we act as his steward. If the steward of a great family, from a selfish attachment to particulars, takes that with which he is entrusted, and bestows it lavishly on some to the injury of others, he becomes unworthy of that office.” Companies are neither charities nor churches, but are run by humans and as such, wherever we work, we all need to act as stewards.

Doctor uses stethoscope to example girl
Pediatrician performs a physical examination on a young girl in Africa.

Working with faith-based organizations is an excellent way of extending that stewardship. In my last job, I started working with, among others, the Christian Health Association of Kenya (CHAK), the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) and the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG).

I was delighted to find that CHAK has a national network of 363 facilities (24 hospitals, 43 health centers, and 296 dispensaries) which has been healing people since the 1930s in Kenya. Working with CHAK and MEDS, we were able to use that network to provide new ways to access medicines for chronic illnesses in a majority of Kenya’s counties. It became a model for work with other CCIH members in Cameroon and Uganda.

You know better than me that faith-based organizations play a critical role in sub-Saharan African health systems; that Christian medical colleges and hospitals remain among the most innovative enablers of affordable access to care across south Asia and; that Christians pursuing social justice have led many of Latin America’s nations to enshrine a constitutional right to healthcare.

Impact of Faith-based Care

For some reason, though, the FBO contribution is often not fully recognized. You would imagine any organization who was interested in partnering on a Kenyan health initiative, especially in rural areas, would be calling on CHAK’s Dr. Samuel Mwenda as a matter of course. But, they are not and the pharmaceutical industry has often missed opportunities to pursue access partnerships with FBOs across the world.

This has to change. The Ministry of Health – with good reason – is often the first point of call for companies like mine looking to establish public-private partnerships to improve access to health and care. But too often the Ministry is not just the first point of call, but the only point of call. This is a mistake. My experience working with FBOs is that they move fast, are highly efficient, have high standards and are very focused on delivery.

Partnering to Go Further

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is increasing recognition that African health systems need more support, and that both the profit and not-for-profit sectors will have a role to play. Last year, the African Development Bank President Akinwumi A Adesina demonstrated the shift of many development finance institutions on health, saying: “We must give hope to the poor and the vulnerable, by ensuring that every African, regardless of their income level, gets access to quality health care, as well as health insurance and social protection.”

The office of the medical emergency services in Bonnievale, a small town in the Western Cape Province. Credit: Gilead

In Jeremiah 33, God says, “I will bring health and healing” and that Jerusalem “will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.” Scripture highlights the link between health, prosperity and peace that Dr Adesina, a man of committed faith, went on to outline to the African Development Bank (AfDB) almost 3,000 years later.

We can work together, understanding that every human, the least among us, deserves health. Access to health services is a human right. By working together to provide it, we can also help to build prosperity and peace across the world.

Are there ways you can see that we can collaborate in that mission with which each of us has been entrusted? I am really keen to hear about new ways of promoting access together and Gilead is ready to work with you to build sustainable health solutions that will have enduring, transformational impact.

Photo at top is a small hospital in Wakiso District located in the Central Region of Uganda.

Gilead Sciences is a Platinum sponsor of the 2022 CCIH Conference.

*Supported by Gilead Sciences Europe Ltd. (“Gilead”) who provided funding. Gilead has had no input or influence into the content of the Conference or any presentations.

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