2015: Reflecting on a year of working together for improved global health
Dec 15, 2015
At the Novartis Foundation, we have been working to improve the lives of the poorest populations for more than 35 years. This year has been one of change, and progress – as we prepare to tackle the health challenges of the next decades.
In March, we held a two-day dialogue and workshop in Hanoi, Vietnam to discuss emerging health challenges in the country. We co-hosted a collaboration workshop on community health workers in June where we discussed strategies for scaling up community health workers across Africa. In August, we brought together a group of experts in Brazil to discuss the current state of leprosy treatment and care, and how best to move forward together in our efforts to finally eliminate the disease.
We also moved our projects forward, and brought new ones to life.
In October, together with our partners, we launched a new hypertension program in Ghana – which you can read more about in this newsletter. We also continued to move ahead our agenda in leprosy by renewing our commitment to help fight leprosy in the Philippines, and by renewing our pledge with the World Health Organization (WHO) to extend the donation of multidrug therapy (MDT) medicines free of charge to all leprosy patients worldwide through the year 2020. You can read more about our other ongoing programs on the Novartis Foundation website.
Finally, we’ve also taken steps into the brave new world of digital communication – first with our newly designed website, then our new Twitter handle @NovartisFDN. And now we’re going to be updating this newsletter. The idea is to leave the PDF format and move online; include more visual interest – pictures, videos and infographics – as well as tighter links to our Twitter and YouTube channels; and give you, our audience a chance to interact with us and help shape the newsletter with your content ideas, thoughts and feedback. Look for the first edition of the updated quarterly newsletter in early 2016.
In the meantime, I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season, and a pleasant rest of 2015!
Novartis Foundation and partners launch new hypertension program in Ghana
At the end of September, the Novartis Foundation and its partners announced that they had begun screening patients in the Community-based Hypertension Improvement Project (ComHIP), a three-year program designed to evaluate the impact of an innovative healthcare model on hypertension management and control in Ghana.
The goal of ComHIP is to improve the control of hypertension by making services more accessible in the community while empowering patients to manage their disease.
ComHIP links community members with the private sector, community health workers and the public health system to drive knowledge, awareness, screening and self-management of the disease. Digital tools are used to strengthen the linkages and empower patients. Key components of the intervention include blood pressure screening in the community, ongoing management of hypertensive patients by community nurses, blood pressure monitoring and dispensing of anti-hypertension drugs by licensed chemical sellers, and supportive messaging through SMS/voice messages.
Today, more than three quarters of deaths from cardiovascular disease take place in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).1 These countries are still coping with infectious diseases and maternal and child health issues, while at the same time, the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer has risen dramatically. Almost 70% of all deaths globally are associated with NCDs and four out of five of these deaths occur in LMICs.2
Deaths from hypertension and high blood pressure estimated at 9.4 million people annually globally, which is equivalent to all infectious diseases combined.3 In Ghana, more than a quarter of the adult population has high blood pressure4, but only 4% of these patients have their blood pressure under control.5
“We want to empower the whole community from patients to healthcare workers to local businesses to reduce the burden of hypertension, and – hopefully – improve the healthcare system overall,” said Peter Lamptey, President Emeritus, FHI 360 and Professor of Non-communicable Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Find out more about hypertension and its impact on global health in our “Let’s talk about hypertension” infographic.
Lloyd-Sherlock, Peter, et al. Hypertension among older adults in low-and middle-income countries: prevalence, awareness and control. International journal of epidemiology, 2014, 43.1: 116-128
At the heart of it: Foundation dialogue in London
On December 1, the Novartis Foundation and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Centre for Global Non Communicable Diseases co-hosted a dialogue event in London to discuss innovation and scale in hypertension management in LMICs. One in a series of dialogues spearheaded by the Novartis Foundation on global health issues, this event was entitled “At the heart of it: innovation and scale in hypertension management in low- and middleincome countries.”
Peter Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and member of the Board of the Novartis Foundation, kicked off the event. “People in low- and middle-income countries are suffering from non-communicable diseases at a younger age and with worse outcomes than those in high-income countries,” said Professor Piot. “If we don’t do something about this now, the impact on economies, productivity and people of these countries will be as big, if not bigger, than HIV/AIDS.”
Dr. Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation
Following Professor Piot was Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation. She highlighted the scale of the challenges facing LMICs with regard to NCDs and made the case that now is the time for action. “Public health services around the world are struggling – they are overwhelmed by the ongoing challenges of maternal and child health, and infectious diseases,” she said. “This leaves them firefighting on a daily basis. The reality is that they have limited time or resources to really tackle non-communicable diseases.” She then outlined the many ways the Novartis Foundation is working to help deliver new healthcare models to address this dual burden of disease.
The event then turned squarely to the topic of hypertension. Jon Snow, anchor at Channel 4 News in the UK, moderated the event, saying “I had no idea what a killer hypertension is – that more young people die of this than HIV or AIDS. It’s a massive priority to educate people about what is going on.”
David Wood, President elect of the World Heart Federation, laid out the hypertension road map. His presentation was followed by examples of new models to address hypertension from across LMICs.
Peter Lamptey, Professor of Non-Communicable Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and President Emeritus, FHI360, highlighted the ComHIP program in Ghana, an innovative community-based hypertension management program.
Samuel Oti, Theme Leader, Non-Communicable Diseases, African Population and Health Research Center, spoke about a research effort in Nairobi, Kenya, aiming at creating a sustainable model for cardiovascular health by adjusting lifestyle and treatment. The SCALE UP study is a quasi-experimental community-based intervention in two slums in Nairobi, one with an intervention, the other a control. The results were encouraging. “Community-based screening of hypertension via task shifting works, and financial incentives can attract patients into care,” he said. “However retention-in-care remains a huge challenge, so more work is needed.”
Beyond Africa, Kenneth Connell, Hypertension Specialist & Deputy Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados talked about an example of health system strengthening for the management of hypertension in Barbados. Professor Prabhakaran Dorairaj, Executive Director of the Centre for Chronic Disease Control in India, highlighted the use of technology in the management of hypertension, and in particular how this is being used in India.
Urbanization is correlated with an increase in hypertension prevalence, and migration from rural to urban areas is associated with increased blood pressure. Jo Ivey Boufford, President of the New York Academy of Medicine spoke about how innovation in urban planning can improve health outcomes for the cities of tomorrow.
Following the expert presentations, Jon Snow moderated a panel discussion with the audience. The discussion centered around ways to bring hypertension, the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, onto the agenda for global health; the challenges and successes of implementing innovative delivery models for hypertension management; and how to translate the evidence generated into health policy.
“At the Novartis Foundation, our goal is to build evidence on what type of healthcare delivery models and technologies are effective, and how we can achieve scale and sustainability with the right models,” said Ann Aerts. “At today’s event, we aimed to bring the different pieces together, and plan for the right kind of collaborations and data across the global health community to have a real and lasting impact on the management of non-communicable diseases in lowand middle-income countries.”
Roberta Bosurgi is a commercial project leader at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel. Earlier this year, she provided her professional experience and expertise to support REPSSI (Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative) both remotely and by spending time with the team in Johannesburg, South Africa. Founded a decade ago by the Novartis Foundation and other partners, REPSSI provides psychosocial support to orphans and vulnerable children and youths affected by HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty and conflict in 13 African countries.
How did you end up supporting REPSSI? Roberta: I heard about the opportunity to support one of REPSSI programs via a colleague. I had always wanted to get more involved and this sounded like a perfect fit in terms of capabilities and experience.
You went on a field visit onsite to support them – what did you do? Roberta: I spent a week working with the marketing and leadership team to make their product offering and messages more customer centric. I originally went only to develop the marketing strategy – but ended up discussing the larger organizational strategy as well. It was very hands on with a lot of interactions with the full team.
What were your impressions? Roberta: It was great to see how passionate the team was about their work and how open they were to input. They have a tremendous team with good experience, and being on the spot helped to give me the full picture of the organization. I felt no cultural barrier at all when I was working with the team.
What did you take away from your experience? Roberta: It was very interesting to see how much value you can add just by leveraging our business experience; we often take this for granted.
Did you bring any learnings back with you to your job? Roberta: The project confirmed the importance of being customer centric in all the content we develop and in everything we do – that is something we shouldn’t lose sight of when we are in the middle of our daily work.
What was the best moment? Roberta: Well, it was very gratifying to hear the REPSSI project leader say to me that our interactions had been one of the highlights of his career!
The Novartis Foundation is proud to recognize over 12 years of support for REPSSI, and as the organization makes continual progress toward its social enterprise ambition, we are taking a step back and wishing REPSSI all the success for 2016 and beyond! We also congratulate the organization on expanding its network of paying customers as it continues to offer training and support to individuals and groups providing mental health and psychosocial support services and materials to vulnerable populations.
Roberta Bosurgi and Noreen Huni, Executive Director of REPSSI
Roberta Bosurgi with the REPSSI team in Johannesburg, South Africa