The Challenges of Bringing Health Care to Everyone, Everywhere

Kate Torgovnick May | Ideas.Ted.Com | June 8, 2017

Physicians Raj Panjabi and Seth Berkley are on a mission to ensure that every person in the world has access to decent medical care. In a conversation, they discuss the obstacles standing in their way and the bold ideas that could help overcome them.

Around the world right now, more than one billion people don’t have access to basic health care. That means no checkups, no vaccinations, no medications, all because of the environment in which people live. They might be too poor to visit a clinic, or they might live too far from one, but the result is the same, and often fatal. It’s a problem that troubles many.

Take physician Raj Panjabi, TED Prize winner and co-founder of Last Mile Health, who trains community health workers to bring care door-to-door in remote communities in Liberia (TED Talk: No one should die because they live too far from a doctor). Or epidemiologist and physician Seth Berkley, who leads Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an international organization that provides vaccines to children in the world’s 73 poorest countries (TED Talk: The troubling reason vaccines are made too late). Both are obsessed with the healthcare gap, and they recently connected over Skype to discuss it. We boiled down the chat into six smart ways to think about the future of global health care.

1. Think beyond conventional ideas of what a health care system looks like.

Good health care isn’t just about hospitals and clinics — or even just doctors and nurses. Good health care, Panjabi and Berkley agree, requires extending the reach of care directly into the homes of people in vulnerable communities. Training community members to be health workers is one of the best ways to do that. That’s how Last Mile Health works: Villages nominate community members for the program, and then outreach nurses train these people in 30 basic skills so they can diagnose and treat common ailments. Last Mile Health’s community health workers have already conducted over 100,000 patient visits in Liberia, and the organization is now supporting the Ministry of Health’s program to serve 1.2 million people by 2021...