Blog Health Care

Global solutions to local healthcare challenges: What we can learn from Rwanda and Australia?

Written by Sithembile Chithenga, MBBS, master of public health candidate at Washington University in St. Louis and participant in the 2019 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track

Andwele Jolly, DPT, MBA, MHA, OCS, Business Director, Divisions of Allergy & Immunology, Rheumatology and Hematology, sought to improve the chronic pain disease burden in St. Louis, and so he ventured to Rwanda and Australia as an Eisenhower fellow to learn their approaches to managing chronic pain.  In his seminar, he summarized the insights from his journey, and, with the help of his local collaborators, discussed the application of these insights in St. Louis.

From Rwanda came some best practices in task shifting: a way to expand access to healthcare in the context of health workforce shortages. Rwanda enlisted non-physician health professionals, including community health workers, to deliver healthcare and consequently achieved substantial gains in health outcomes at both the population and individual level. Insights from Rwanda have helped improve various health care initiatives aimed at medically underserved populations in St. Louis as well as capacity building among health professionals through skill sharing and upskilling. Task shifting is undoubtedly a major step in achieving health equity.

The makings of patient-centered care: physical comfort, respect for patient's value, integration of care, patient empowerment, emotional support, involvement of family and friends, access to care and continuity of care.

From Australia came some best practices in integrating patient care and health professional training. Integrated patient care has shown to improve patient outcomes, reduce healthcare utilization and associated costs. Although different cadres of health professionals work together in providing quality care and in ensuring patient safety, professional training is often siloed and with little interaction among future colleagues. Insights from Australian programs promoting interdisciplinary training and collaboration have informed the Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education’s programs in St. Louis which consists of Washington University School of Medicine, Goldfarb School of Nursing, and St. Louis College of Pharmacy.

Overall, Dr Jolly’s seminar illustrated the concept of communities of practice on a global stage. It was a reminder that everyone, even in seemingly disparate settings, has something to offer and that our patients and communities reap the benefits when we, as health professionals, work together and learn from each other.