Greetings from the VillageReach team!
As the year comes to a close, I’m excited to review our activities over the past 12 months and look ahead to our plans for 2013. Our work in 2012 reflects VillageReach’s unique position as both an on-the-ground implementer of cost-effective ways to increase access for underserved communities, and as a catalyst for comprehensive changes in global health that improve the quality and reach of healthcare delivery.
This year we collaborated with a number of organizations to develop, execute and evaluate new approaches to strengthening health systems throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In Ethiopia, we have been working with Columbia University and PATH to design information systems for community health workers. In Malawi, we supported the community of Kwitanda, working in the community and in health centers to increase prevention of disease and access to health services. We also tested how information technology can provide women with a reliable means of accessing health information and care. In Mozambique, the Dedicated Logistics System (DLS) program has expanded to four provinces, and now supports vaccine distribution to 40% of the country’s rural health centers. There are unique challenges in improving supply chains where resources are limited, but this year we have seen a marked increase in the availability of vaccines. This program is also serving as a host for other initiatives. We partnered with the Mozambique Ministry of Health and the USAID | DELIVER Project to increase the availability of a variety of medical commodities that health workers will provide to their communities – the pilot integrates use of the ODK Scan mobile device application we have been developing with the University of Washington.
Our work with a number of leading universities provides us with the opportunity to work with some of the best minds in tackling global health challenges. The William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan supported us in documenting the range of obstacles challenging the reliable delivery of medical commodities; the MIT Sloane School of Management provided MBA students to evaluate the long term business potential and social impact of our for-profit fuel supply company, VidaGas, that serves remote health centers. And the University of Washington continues to be a key strategic partner for VillageReach: we collaborated with a team in the Computer Science and Engineering Department that co-developed the ODK Scan application, and are starting a new relationship with the University’s Global Medicines Program and the Malawi College of Health Sciences to train pharmacy assistants in Malawi to support medicines management and improve the supply chain for rural health facilities.
To improve health systems for remote communities with limited infrastructure, much of our work has focused on developing technologies that improve the communication, data collection and reporting from the field. For the DLS program in Mozambique, we issued the fourth release of the vrMIS management information system software platform that improves reporting on community health and the performance of the ministry of health. We launched the open source initiative, OpenLMIS, in 2010 to reduce the cost of information technologies for developing countries – technologies that we often take for granted at home. In 2012, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined other members, John Snow, Inc. (JSI), PATH, the Rockefeller Foundation and VillageReach in the initiative. For more information and reporting on our activities, please visit our blog and the Reports and Publications section of our website.
Looking Ahead to 2013 …
Current programs that increase health system support for remote communities will continue in the new year. We’re also adding several new initiatives. In Malawi, we’ll be working with the Barr Foundation on the Malawi Pharmacy Assistant Program, a new program to improve the public health supply chain. During the course of the program, 150 pharmacy assistants will be trained and deployed in rural health facilities that serve 4.5 million. In 2013, we will also be expanding the reach of the Chipatala cha pa Foni / Health Center by Phone program to additional communities in order to reach more families with life-saving advice, information and referrals.
In 2013, we will continue to make investments in the development of cost-effective technologies for health system use in any country. Through the OpenLMIS Initiative, we will be working with the governments of Tanzania and Zambia and the USAID | DELIVER Project to deliver a dynamic information technology platform that accurately tracks and reports on the delivery of medical commodities nationwide in both countries.
As the needs for our programs grow, so does VillageReach itself. We need to raise an additional $1 million to meet our 2013 program goals. During the new year we plan to hire additional staff to expand the reach of our community health programs in Malawi and Mozambique, support additional pharmacy assistant students to serve in rural health facilities, continue investing in high-impact data capture and communication technologies, and invest in additional infrastructure to support the distribution of vaccines and other medical commodities to remote communities.
Over the last year we have seen tremendous progress; we are very encouraged and have much hope for 2013. On behalf of the many communities and families we serve, thank you for your continuing support.