Gabrielle Fitzgerald 21st Century Solutions for 21st century problems Thu, 06 Oct 2016 17:01:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gabrielle Fitzgerald 32 32 What do Ban Ki-moon, Justin Trudeau, Usher and Bill Gates have in common? Global health diplomacy Wed, 05 Oct 2016 20:52:37 +0000 By Gabrielle Fitzgerald and Peter Small

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted a funding conference in September for The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, nearly $13 billion was raised. That’s enough to save 8 million lives. Money of that magnitude doesn’t just magically appear. Getting to the conference in Montreal — packed with notables from Usher and Bono to Ban Ki-moon and Bill Gates — required years of diplomatic relationship-building to encourage donors to join together and pledge their commitments.

A few days later, the world came to New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly meetings. Global leaders held a high-level session on health for only the fourth time in UNGA’s 70-year history, this time on antimicrobial resistance. Convincing the U.N. to host this event was the result of concerted negotiations by the U.K. government, in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, and supported earlier this year by the Group of Seven industrialized economies.

Both of these victories were achieved through strategically planned and executed diplomacy that brought together a passionate coalition of people and diverse organizations to reach a common goal. Much of the progress we have seen recently on vaccines, nutrition, and global health security is due to global health diplomacy just like this.

We believe that at its core, global health diplomacy simply means finding ways to incentivize governments to achieve health goals for their citizens.

Yet this concept is rarely addressed. The academic field of global health has seen an unprecedented surge in popularity. It is now taught at more than 250 North American universities, training the next generation of global health practitioners and increasing the field’s intellectual rigor. Nevertheless, both new and seasoned practitioners are hard pressed to define global health diplomacy or explain its value.

Why is it so important for global health professionals to identify and understand global health diplomacy?

First, global health diplomacy represents the reality that health issues are inherently political.

The concept was first overtly identified during U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s administration, when a White House aide made the case that “the role of health and medicine as a means for bettering international relations has not been fully explored by the United States.”

A lot has happened since then, and global health is now a vital part of the international relations toolkit — a recognized way to exercise “soft power” or persuasion instead of coercion. Today, global health diplomacy drives priorities in public health, and impacts practitioners on the ground.

We saw this in action during U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Laos, where his visit led to the announcement of a new Lao-American Nutrition Institute and Laos’ endorsement of the Global Health Security Agenda.

Second, global health diplomacy is fundamental to making progress towards major global health challenges.

Unlike the traditional definition of diplomacy, which implies government to government relationships, a wide range of actors engage in global health diplomacy, including philanthropists, companies and celebrities. Their tools can range from splashy campaigns to private conversations. It is this diverse mix of unique players and skill sets that is really exciting. They bring new ideas and approaches to bear on really hard problems, resulting in meaningful progress.

When using big-picture, or systems thinking, to identify a problem, it becomes clear that engaging all types of global health diplomacy — whether through traditional means, multi-stakeholder or informal — will lead to better results, faster.

In conclusion, to effectively navigate the complex field of global health, one must take time to understand the role of global health diplomacy. Too often we focus on the practical solution at hand, instead of taking a step back to see the bigger picture.

But, when we do look at the broader diplomatic, financial, and geopolitical context, then it becomes possible to plot the most effective course to overcome a global health challenge for real, lasting change.

Global health diplomacy is made up of core building blocks that everyone can understand, including the role of traditional and new players, how global policies are set, and how global health is financed and governed. As a starting point for these learnings, we have created a free Global Health Diplomacy course available through Coursera.

When more people recognize the role and value of global health diplomacy, the world will be able to accelerate and intensify the immense progress we have seen over the past few decades.

Originally posted on DevEx, September 29, 2016

Actions Speak Louder than Words: Putting Women Front and Center in Global Health Wed, 01 Jun 2016 22:37:26 +0000 At the recent Women Deliver conference, 5,000 people gathered in Copenhagen to talk about putting women and girls at the center of development. Women’s health issues were front and center, and many people emphasized the importance of Sustainable Development Goal #5:  Gender Equality.

Last week, many of these same leaders made their way to Geneva to attend the World Health Assembly. I was fortunate to attend this year’s assembly, the annual gathering of Ministers of Health, experts and advocates. It is a policy wonk’s dream: In one room, health emergencies are being discussed. In the next, neglected diseases with names that are difficult to pronounce or spell. Go down the hall, and you can pop in on sessions on anti-microbial resistance, dementia or adolescent health.

There was cause to celebrate at this year’s assembly. Polio is close to eradication, with only 74 cases last year. Guinea worm is even closer, with only 22 cases.

And there was discouraging news. The Zika virus has spread to 39 countries, with 500 million people at risk, with the implications still being understood. And last year, there were nearly 600 attacks on health care workers and facilities.

Almost every session echoed the themes from Women Deliver – healthy women and girls are central to healthy communities.

But looking behind this rhetoric, a concerning trend still exists in the global health community: A complete gender imbalance in leadership positions. While the WHO is led by a female Director General, the heads of The Global Fund, GAVI, UNAIDS and UNICEF are men. Of these agencies, only UNICEF has ever had a woman leader.

The Center for Global Development commented on this trend three years ago, after the last Women Deliver conference. Since then, Deborah Birx was named head of PEPFAR, and the next Secretary General of the United Nations, to be selected this fall, may well be a woman.

So, perhaps things are going in the right direction. But the challenges of the lack of women leadership was brought home to me at a micro level earlier last week when I attended a discussion on global health security.

I walked in to a packed room, found a seat and glanced up at the panel. The crowded stage had eight speakers, and every single one of them was a man. Even though perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, I was. I couldn’t believe that in 2016, we were still having conversations driven solely by men.

As the event was being planned, did anyone stop and think that gender diversity might be valuable?


#AllMalePanel at 69th World Health Assembly, May 2016

Over the past couple years, the #AllMalePanel hashtag has become popular on Twitter. I saw it used for at least five different panels during the World Health Assembly.

In March, Foreign Policy wrote a piece commenting on the dearth of women in speaking roles in important venues, whether it is Congressional hearings or panels like the one I attended. They offered “seven rules for avoiding all-male panels,” which are a good reminder that this trend can be avoided, with a little bit of effort.

Throughout my 20-year career in global health I have met incredibly smart, competent and passionate women and men. I would like to make an offer to my colleagues working on global health and development: If you are putting together a panel and are finding it difficult to represent diverse views, feel free to reach out to me. I would be more than happy to refer you to qualified and knowledgeable experts who will provide interesting and diverse perspectives to complete your panel.  Hearing from a broad and diverse set of voices will only make our collective work stronger.

So, as we all work toward the sustainable development goal of gender equality, shouldn’t we all also work toward gender parity in important leadership roles and policy discussions?


Blog originally published on Medium.

Six Reasons Why You Should Still Care About Ebola Tue, 14 Jul 2015 10:00:28 +0000 Since early 2014, Ebola has infected about 27,600 people and caused more than 11,200 deaths. And this outbreak is not over. To put this in perspective, the largest outbreak ever recorded previously was 425 cases in Uganda.

Last month, I visited Sierra Leone and Guinea, and continue to be impressed at how hard people are working to try to bring the outbreak under control. Six realities stand out that remind me how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go to reach zero Ebola cases.

There is still an Ebola epidemic in West Africa — Just because the number of new Ebola cases each month is dramatically lower than at the height of the epidemic last year doesn’t mean the outbreak is over. Last week, there were 30 new cases, which is the highest we’ve seen in two months. In any other circumstance, 30 new Ebola cases would be a cause for significant alarm. Additionally, many of these cases came through unknown human contact, so we still do not have a grip on how and where the virus is moving.

It’s the time of year when Ebola cases might spike — With the onset of the rainy season this month, Sierra Leone and Guinea will receive up to 55 inches of rain on average per month, through November. This annual deluge washes out roads and diminishes sanitary conditions, making it difficult for people possibly infected with Ebola to travel to health facilities, and for response teams to reach the remote villages where Ebola may arise.

Medium Post_6 Reasons_WAERC MapWestern Area Ebola Response Center (WAERC) in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which has played a crucial role in controlling Ebola cases in the country.

New countries at risk — Liberia was declared Ebola-free in early May, allowing the country to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, less than two months later, five new cases have been diagnosed just outside the capital, and the response effort has geared up again.

In the meantime, new Ebola cases cropped up in Guinea’s Boke prefecture, which borders the country of Guinea-Bissau. International agencies have deployed health workers to this region to help the country prepare for the virus, in case it jumps the border. Complicating matters, Guinea-Bissau is another under-resourced and unprepared country, so the already stretched international response effort will be further taxed.

There are few economies of scale in an Ebola response — Managing an Ebola Treatment Unit, or ETU, is an extremely complex and dangerous task. Since the disease is highly contagious, an ETU requires the same number of staff — at least 100 people, working 24/7 in four shifts of 25 doctors, nurses, hygiene workers, cooks, etc. — whether there is only one Ebola patient or a dozen. While the lower case numbers have allowed some ETUs to close, cases could spike at any time. Thus, we must remain well-prepared until zero cases are reached globally.

Ebola survivors continue to suffer even after they are cured — Many ETUs have “Survivor Walls” covered with pictures or hand prints celebrating the more than 16,000 men, women and children who have survived the often-fatal disease. However, shortly after discharge, Ebola survivors have reported painful and debilitating symptoms, including fatigue, chronic muscle aches, anorexia and a devastating eye infection that can lead to blindness.

Studies are underway to understand the long-term effects of the virus, but it is heartbreaking to realize that survivors’ suffering goes on long after the acute illness ends.

Medium Post_6 Reasons_Wall BigSurvivor wall at a French Red Cross ETU in Forecariah, Guinea.

We don’t know where Ebola originates — Despite the billions of dollars the world has poured into stopping the current West Africa Ebola outbreak, we are no closer to understanding why this outbreak started in the first place, and what may start the next one. David Quammen’s excellent piece in National Geographic debunks the common assumption that fruit bats are the source of Ebola and points to the many unanswered questions about which animal hosts the virus and what mechanism causes it to spill over to humans.

Ebola continues to be an unpredictable and devastating opponent that requires human and financial resources. What we learn about the virus today can help us stop the current outbreak and prevent future outbreaks, saving many lives.

Leaders in the Ebola response are cautiously optimistic that we can overcome the final hurdles and reach zero cases in West Africa by this fall. But there is still much more work to be done.

Originally posted by Gabrielle Fitzgerald on Medium

21st Century Tools To Tackle Ebola and Improve Health Thu, 23 Apr 2015 01:47:06 +0000 One year ago, Guinea reported its last case of Ebola. After the 42-day monitoring period, there was a collective sigh of relief. International health experts packed their bags to go home.

On day 50, a new Ebola case was discovered. Since then, Ebola has continued to be unpredictable and devastating. Despite tremendous progress, there remain persistent obstacles reaching zero cases.

To finally overcome this 21st century challenge, we need 21st century solutions. These should leverage cutting-edge technology and ideas and be appropriate and applicable for the reality on the ground. By developing and deploying such products and applications, we can stop this epidemic, strengthen health systems in West Africa and prevent future outbreaks.

So, what is the anatomy of a 21st century solution to solve a 21st century problem? One critical element is partnership — particularly public-private partnerships. Ebola is a case study into the value of partnership. I have been especially excited by the ideas emerging from nontraditional fields to tackle this disease.

For example, at the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation we’re using our expertise in aerospace to partner with the U.S. State Department to develop a better Medevac solution. Medical personal have feared working with Ebola patients in West Africa because no reliable evacuation exists. To help solve this problem, special units were designed to be placed in aircraft jets, so the U.S. State Department can safely evacuate medical professionals from the field.

Additionally, on April 21, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation hosted the Ebola Innovation Summit, alongside the Skoll Global Threats Fund and USAID. The Summit inspired tangible action to address some of the most vexing gaps in the Ebola response and recovery; encouraged new applications of 21st century tools and knowledge; and paved pathways for quickly delivering promising innovations to market. More information can be found here.

These are just two examples of the collaborative work between private and public sectors to tackle Ebola. More than 30 U.S. nonprofit organizations have sent 10,000 people to work on the ground. And U.S. companies, including UPS and General Electric, continue to contribute their knowledge and expertise on the complex logistics and health equipment needed to fight this epidemic.

While Ebola might not be in the headlines as it once was, it is not behind us. Cases have significantly decreased in recent weeks, but the monthly total of Ebola cases still rivals the largest previous Ebola outbreak.

So, while we should celebrate our progress, we must maintain our commitment to reaching zero cases. It is our hope that the Ebola Innovation Summit can inspire and facilitate action. I am confident that by taking new approaches and developing innovative solutions, together we can get to zero.

Originally posted by Gabrielle Fitzgerald on DipNote

Partnering to Reduce TB in Indonesia Tue, 10 Mar 2015 15:00:16 +0000 Dewi Wulan smiled radiantly as she pulled off her surgical mask. All the patients at Dr. Hasan Sadikin Hospital’s TB clinic were wearing them, but she is now officially no longer contagious with TB, and therefore the mask was no longer required.

I met Dewi, 29, at Dr. Hasan Sadikin Hospital, a busy urban hospital in Bandung, Indonesia, which sees 3000 patients a day. One of their priorities is treating Tuberculosis (TB), a highly infectious disease that is all too common in Indonesia, which has the unfortunate ranking as the country with the ninth most TB cases in the world.

In the past few years, a new tool, GeneXpert, has been introduced that reduces diagnosis time from six weeks to two hours.

If TB isn’t accurately diagnosed and treated promptly and effectively, resistance to TB drugs can develop. This “multi-drug resistant” TB is extremely difficult to cure and in the best case requires almost two years of treatment. Key to treating TB quickly is diagnosing the disease. In many parts of the world, hospitals send samples to a far-away lab where they are examined under a standard microscope–a process that hasn’t changed in over a hundred years. It often takes weeks to tell a patient that she has TB, during which time she has potentially been infecting her family and neighbors.

In the past few years, a new tool, GeneXpert, has been introduced that reduces diagnosis time from six weeks to two hours, allowing patients to both begin receiving medicine immediately and to know if their disease is already resistant to one of the most common drugs used to treat TB. While this tool is still relatively rare, Dr. Hasan Sadkin Hospital recently received their first GeneXpert machine through funding from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Instead of being a patient at the clinic, Dewi will now be a community health worker, helping people in her neighborhood who are at-risk of TB.

I visited Dr. Hasan Sadikin Hospital with colleagues from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria and Tahir, a prominent Indonesian businessman who is the largest individual private donor to the Global Fund. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match Tahir’s funding and together these contributions will support the majority of the Fund’s TB treatment programs in Indonesia.

Instead of being a patient at the clinic, Dewi will now be a community health worker so she can work with people in her neighborhood who are at-risk of TB. It is rewarding to meet Dewi and to know that this partnership is helping other young women and men like her give back to their communities.

Originally posted by Gabrielle Fitzgerald on Impatient Optimists

Global Campaigns in the Clicktivist Era Sun, 01 Mar 2015 14:00:13 +0000 We all know we live in a globally inter-connected world. Changes in technology have greatly changed our daily lives, and we can now quickly speak out on issues that used to be distant problems. The current example is the atrocious kidnapping of school girls in northern Nigeria which has fueled international Twitter trending of the #bringbackourgirls campaign.

While it is too early to tell if the online activism of “clicktivists” will result in the girls returning to their families, there are some tried and true tactics that have been updated for the modern era and should be applied to all global campaigns.

Catalytic Coalitions – Today’s global challenges need catalytic coalitions to help solve them – coalitions that have a grand vision and big voices. Last year’s Global Vaccine Summit built a coalition of government officials, religious scholars, CEOS and philanthropists to set a huge goal to catalyze change and save children’s lives. Co-hosted by the United Nations Secretary General, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Bill Gates, the summit built political will that ensures governments fund vaccination campaigns and parents immunize their children.

Strange bedfellows – Catalytic coalitions that are made up of strange bedfellows help make the case to a diverse set of stakeholders to care about the issue at hand. The United Against Malaria campaign, which used the 2010 World Cup – the first-ever Cup held in Africa – used the popularity of soccer to encourage African leaders to prioritize malaria programs and convince people to sleep under bed nets. The campaign joined the forces of many different champions to help meet its goals: including soccer players, their teams, and leagues, African government officials, NGOs, hotel chains, grocery stores and even Nando’s, the fast-food chicken chain

Change Agents – When planning a campaign, the first step is to figure out who the change agents are. Often the assumption is that change comes from grassroots, and there are many examples where that can drive impact. Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 viral video led to a direct change in U.S. policy. But we are also seeing an increasing trend of philanthropists serving as change agents, whether it is Michael Bloomberg in pushing gun control, Tom Steyer on climate change, or Indonesian businessman Tahir who is encouraging his friends to support TB in their home country. And there’s another group of change agents where you might least expect it – government officials. While politicians are often seen as politically craven or just plain bureaucrats, don’t forget that they are human too, and can be just as passionate about issues as the next person. The Obama administration deserves a great deal of credit for their behind-the-scenes leadership in ensuring the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria raised $12 billion in late 2013, using diplomatic efforts to ensure other governments came to the table too.

While there is no magic formula that can be applied to every global campaign, don’t be fooled in to thinking that Facebook likes and trending topics can make change on their own. Motivation, momentum and money are all key to campaigns, and are driven by catalytic campaigns, strange bedfellows and change agents. So while we tweet #bringbackourgirls, let’s make sure we combine that with the tactics that we know work to bring lasting change.

Originally posted by Gabrielle Fitzgerald on

Together We Can Get to Zero Wed, 11 Feb 2015 13:00:41 +0000 While the fight against Ebola is yet to be won, Americans should be proud of the role we have played in the progress made to date.

We live in a complex, globally interconnected world, where ideas and viruses can spread almost instantaneously. The world has seen devastating health crises in the past, such as the 1918 flu epidemic, but today it is much easier for viruses to spread globally today. We need 21st century solutions to combat 21st century challenges. The Ebola epidemic that spread across nine countries on three continents is certainly one of those challenges.

Last week, I proudly joined President Obama at The White House for a series of meetings on Ebola to discuss the global response efforts. While many have justly criticized the Ebola response as too slow off the mark, once the crisis was declared, the world joined together in a significant, impressive international coalition. The U.S. and United Nations Global Ebola Response Coalition mobilized as one community of actors committed to working with the affected countries to end the outbreak. As part of the global response, Americans should be proud of how government officials, armed services and civil servants helped “bend the curve” on this terrible disease.

Surrounded by members of the military, and public servants from other government agencies who are performing invaluable services for our country, President Obama highlighted the incredible efforts of those who contributed to the global Ebola response. The group included CDC lab technicians, members of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (who are first responders in natural disasters and humanitarian crises), doctors and nurses from the U.S. Public Health Service, and the State Department’s medical coordinator.

Complementing the U.S. government’s efforts was an impressive contribution by a catalytic coalition of private sector partners. More than 30 U.S. non-profit organizations have sent 10,000 people to work on the ground. Philanthropists, including Paul Allen, Larry and Lucy Page, and Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, who had never before focused on global health, were moved to give. Silicon Valley-based companies like Google and Facebook made unique contributions to raising awareness and funds through their online platforms. And U.S. companies, including UPS and General Electric, contributed their knowledge and expertise on the complex logistics and health equipment needed to fight this epidemic.

While we should be proud of this impressive joint effort to help solve this unique 21st century problem, Ebola is not behind us. Cases have significantly decreased in recent months, but the number of current Ebola cases still rivals the largest previous Ebola outbreak. So, while we should celebrate the progress that has been made, and thank those whose personal sacrifices got us here, we need to double-down on our commitment to get Ebola cases to zero. Specifically, in the recent Overview of Needs and Requirements report, UNMEER is calling for $1 billion in funding to identify and treat people affected by Ebola to ensure a rapid end to the outbreak.

Together we must mobilize these resources and continue to drive U.S. engagement in the response. In the 21st century, Ebola anywhere has the potential to be Ebola everywhere.

Originally posted by Gabrielle Fitzgerald on UN Foundation Blog

The Fight Against Ebola Fri, 06 Feb 2015 14:00:37 +0000 For those of us whose understanding of the Ebola epidemic comes from what we hear on news reports and the statistics we read about the disease, Ebola can seem like a very distant problem. And especially as many are starting to contend that this current outbreak is nearly over, the havoc wrought by Ebola is turning into a fading memory.

However, many people in West Africa continue to suffer from the disease and the dislocations it continues to cause. There’s nothing like meeting those who are on the ground there, patients and health care workers, and hearing their stories to make you realize that Ebola is still very much a reality. The current Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, infecting more than 22,000 people with more than 8,800 deaths as of mid-January 2015, and we cannot rest until zero cases remain.

In late January, I traveled to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea—the three countries most affected by this outbreak—to see how Ebola is being contained and how aid is laying the groundwork for stronger health care systems in these countries going forward. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has donated more than $61 million of its commitment to the Ebola fight thus far, and my trip provided opportunities to see the good work of the programs and projects being funded. In the midst of great ongoing suffering in these countries, it is evident that there is also great hope for their respective futures. I then traveled to Davos for the World Economic Forum annual meeting, to discuss the state of the Ebola epidemic with health and policy leaders also looking to understand the outbreak.

Here are a few stories and snapshots from my trip:

My first stop in West Africa was Freetown, Sierra Leone, and from the moment I arrived at the airport there, it was clear that Ebola remains a serious threat there. Those arriving are instructed to wash their hands take their temperature at several points—even before going through the customs checkpoint, for example.

My last visit to Freetown was 15 years ago, at the tail end of the country’s devastating civil war, as a USAID staffer evaluating the emergency response underway. Now back in the city, it saddened me that I was back in the country in support of another disaster, the Ebola epidemic


Dealing with a vicious epidemic requires speed and accuracy, which in turn require strong logistics. The complexity of the Ebola response is truly mind-blowing. The coordination that is needed among people, supplies and vehicles demands military precision, which is why having the United Kingdom’s military help out with the response in Sierra Leone has been so valuable.

The nerve center for the response is Freetown’s 117 Call Center — the national emergency response hotline. Today, the call center employs over 225 people, and runs like a well-oiled machine. Three shifts of trained workers man the phones 24 hours a day, answering 30,000 calls a week, and processing 5,000 transactions.

Operators—mostly university students who are in need of work while classes are cancelled due to the outbreak—answer the phone and go through a questionnaire with callers, typing the responses into a record on the laptop in front of them.

Once the responses are entered in to a database, they immediately are available at the Emergency Response Centers set up in districts across Sierra Leone. Based on the information coming in from the 117 line, the Centers will send out ambulances, burial teams or health workers to follow up on the report. The eHealth team, which runs the 117 Call Center via Africom, collects the data from all the calls, looking for trends in disease reporting.

Logistics may not be a glamorous word, but it’s an extremely important component of the Ebola response. The ability to quickly collect, disseminate and analyze this data will be crucial to ending the outbreak.


There are countless personal stories from the front lines of the epidemic—poignant, devastating, hopeful, and persistent. Some of the most compelling tales come from those who contracted Ebola and were able to recover—people like Alvin Smith, who I was able to meet in Liberia.

As a physician’s assistant in Goodwill Health Clinic, Alvin treated many patients a day. With Ebola infecting more people every day, Alvin kept going to work. One day, he got sick and became a patient himself.

Alvin had Ebola and malaria. Because of his profession, he was eligible to be treated at the Monrovia Medical Unit, a 25-bed facility run by the U.S. Public Health Service. While Alvin was recovering, his family was at home, under quarantine. They weren’t allowed to leave their house for 21 days, and had no access to food or supplies.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending: Alvin recovered, and went back to work–this time, at the Monrovia Medical Unit, where he had received such excellent care. He is committed to giving back and to help others who are sick with Ebola.

Alvin Smith was on the brink of death from Ebola, but now he is working to ensure that those who are infected have the same opportunity at life he has.


It was still dark when we met 26-year old nursing student Dorissa Bestman outside of a clinic in New Kru Town, a neighborhood in Monrovia, Liberia.

January 18, 2015, Monrovia, Liberia - Contact Tracer Dorissa Bestman uses a tablet provided by the CDC Foundation to follow up on her 13 daily contacts in the New Cru Town section of Monrovia. She was trained by CDCF partner agency EHealth Africa using the same Allan Foundation funds as well.

January 18, 2015, Monrovia, Liberia – Contact Tracer Dorissa Bestman uses a tablet provided by the CDC Foundation to follow up on her 13 daily contacts in the New Cru Town section of Monrovia.

Dorissa is a “contact tracer” for Ebola cases. Every day, she gets a list of people in her district who have possibly been exposed to Ebola. She visits them each morning and evening, checking their temperature, and running through a list of symptoms for Ebola, to ask if they have exhibited any signs of the disease.
During the week of my visit, Dorissa was participating in a pilot project using small tablet devices to record the answers to the contact tracing. This saved her having to fill out paperwork and deliver it to a supervisor, who would then bring it to the district headquarters, who in turn would bring it to the Incident Management Support unit, where the information would be logged in to an Excel spreadsheet and then analyzed.

New technologies like the tablets are a major time saver, and when it comes to Ebola, saving time can mean more lives saved.

Originally Posted by Gabrielle Fitzgerald on #Tackle Ebola

Midwives: Critical Players in Delivering Family Planning in Indonesia Sun, 16 Mar 2014 15:00:38 +0000 With 250 citizens stretched over 3,000 miles and 6,000 islands, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world. With a country this large, Indonesia’s leaders made a decision in the 1970s to prioritize family planning. In the public health arena, they are now known for their incredible success over the past few decades in supporting family planning programs and reducing the fertility rate from 5.2 in 1973 to 2.6 in 2012.

A key part of the government’s plan to improve health care is to strengthen midwives to provide family planning services.

However, the contraceptive use rate has stalled over the last decade, and as many as 11 percent of married women have an unmet need for family planning.

Recognizing the need to re-dedicate their efforts to family planning, in July 2012, at the London Family Planning Summit, Indonesia made a strong commitment to increase access to family planning across the country.

On January 1, Indonesia introduced a universal health insurance plan for all citizens, which will be phased in over the next five years. A key part of the government’s plan to improve health care is to strengthen midwives to provide family planning services.

Last week I was in Bandung, Indonesia and had the opportunity to meet nurse midwives at the Puskesmas Puter, a local health clinic serving one of Bandung’s poorer neighborhoods. The clinic sees about 10 family planning patients a day. Long acting, reversible methods are the most popular contraceptives provided at the clinic. The staff noted the challenges women face in accessing contraceptives, particularly the obstacles of educating women on contraceptives and ensuring husbands sign a permission form for their wives.

I was in Bandung with Tahir, a prominent Indonesian businessman. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Tahir Foundation are joining together with matched funding to help support Indonesia’s family planning goals in concert with the Indonesia Ministry of Health.

It will be exciting to watch Indonesia’s progress toward universal health care, and to learn about the progress made in family planning with midwives in this important role.

Originally posted by Gabrielle Fitzgerald on Impatient Optimists

An Urban Innovator: Ridwan Kamil Thu, 13 Mar 2014 15:00:18 +0000 Ridwan Kamil was one of the top architects in Indonesia, responsible for a tsunami memorial museum at home and projects across the Middle East and China. Last year, he gave it all up to run for mayor of his home town of Bandung, the third-largest city in Indonesia with a population of 2.6 million. He campaigned using social media, winning the race against seven other candidates. He promised to turn Bandung in to a more livable city.

He is now turning his innovative spirit to solve the problems of Bandung, starting with health. He hopes to build a new hospital, double the number of local clinics and increase the uptake of family planning.

I was privileged to be hosted at a dinner by Mayor Ridwan during a visit to Bandung with the Tahir Foundation and the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. We were in Bandung to visit Dr. Hasan Sadikin Hospital, a busy city hospital with multiple TB clinics to treat people and prevent further spread of this deadly disease. A new partnership between the Tahir and Gates Foundations and the Global Fund will ensure Indonesia’s hospitals have the funding to carry this work forward.

During the dinner, I was impressed by the mayor’s innovative approach to problem-solving for his city. Even before he was elected mayor, he was honored by several global awards for his work to improve Indonesia’s cities by establishing urban gardens which provide food and a sense of community.

Not surprisingly, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is his role model.

He is now turning his innovative spirit to solve the problems of Bandung, starting with health. He hopes to build a new hospital, double the number of puskesmas (local clinics) and increase the uptake of family planning. He’s impatient with the pace of change, and is planning to build a war room to ensure he has up-to-the minute data on city services and statistics. Not surprisingly, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is his role model.

It was an honor to meet Mayor Ridwan and I look forward to cheering him on from afar in reaching his ambitious goals for the city and people of Bandung.

Originally posted by Gabrielle Fitzgerald on Impatient Optimists