In late September, an era came to an end – the era of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. Over the past 15 years, the MDGs have been successful in focusing global attention on driving advances in health. Resources have been increased and efforts coordinated in a way that has transformed hundreds of millions of lives. In just 15 years, child mortality was nearly halved. Malaria deaths declined by 60%. And today nearly 15 million people worldwide receive treatment for AIDS, helping them continue to be productive members of society, compared to only about 10,000 people in 2000.
While the agenda for the MDGs is not entirely finished, we are now embarking on the next set of targets with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs set the bar even higher, aiming to ensuring healthy lives for all – including, for the first time, the ambition to reduce premature deaths caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs), or chronic illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
In this context, we must understand that healthcare challenges in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are actually growing. There is still much work to be done to improve and advance management of infectious disease and maternal and child health, while at the same time health services need to deal with the rising tide of NCDs.
Addressing the dual burden of disease will be important as we move forward with the new post-MDG agenda, and is an area where public-private partnerships can make a real impact. The Novartis Foundation is actively working to address this disparity between infectious and non-communicable diseases by leveraging private-sector assets. With a focus on the growing epidemic of hypertension, the main risk factor for heart disease, the foundation is implementing programs to mitigate the increased pressure on healthcare in low-and middle-income countries.
At the same time, we recognize that infectious diseases still have a big impact in many LMICs – which is why Novartis has renewed its pledge with the World Health Organization (WHO) to work to end leprosy and extended its donation of multidrug therapy (MDT) medicines to treat leprosy. As in the past, the foundation will help to facilitate the logistics of the MDT donation with the WHO.
Philanthropic organizations and the private sector have a special responsibility in the global health community as we are in a position to take on some of the risk associated with developing and implementing pioneering models of healthcare, as well as using our global reach to share the evidence and spread best practice. We know the challenge of improving access to medicines and healthcare will take a concerted long-term effort by many people and organizations. Now it’s time to do our part – together.
Novartis Foundation at the European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health
At the 9th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health (ECTMIH), held in Basel, Switzerland, from September 6 - 10 2015, the Novartis Foundation and its partners highlighted the progress they’ve made towards transforming the health of the poorest populations around the world.
“We wanted to share our learnings, successes and challenges with the global health community,” said Joseph Adomako, Senior Telemedicine Project Manager. “In turn, we learned as much as we could from them for our own work.”
Nine Novartis Foundation-sponsored healthcare delivery models and disease elimination programs were showcased in scientific sessions and sponsored-symposia during the meeting. Highlights from these sessions included:
Additional Novartis Foundation supported programs showcased included the malaria targeted parasite elimination project in Namibia, the Integrated e-Diagnostic Approach (IeDA) for maternal and child health in Burkina Faso, the Tanzanian Training Centre for International Health (TTCIH) social enterprise to train health professionals in East Africa and the Community-based Hypertension Improvement Project (ComHIP) in Ghana.
“The ECTMIH was a great opportunity to join with our partners and the global health community to review the progress we are making in the innovation of healthcare delivery and disease elimination,” said Dr. Ann Aerts. “It’s an exciting time for us as we are seeing projects such as Telemedicine in Ghana move towards scale and integration into the national health system as well as new projects, such as our leprosy contact tracing and preventative therapy program, begin to gain momentum. We need to be open and collaborative as we are all aiming toward the same goal of transforming the health of the poorest populations.”
Novartis Foundation co-hosts Dialogue in New York
In late September in New York City, as world leaders gathered for the UN announcement of its Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), the Novartis Foundation, the Novartis Malaria Initiative and Novartis Corporate Responsibility co-hosted a dialogue event on how Novartis plans to address the growing health needs of populations across the world, in line with the new SDGs.
Pioneering healthcare models that have a transformational impact on the health of the poorest populations in the world lies at the core of the Novartis Foundation – and we will continue to push for new solutions to some of the most seemingly intractable health challenges we face.
The dialogue event, called “Wellbeing for all: innovation for society’s biggest health challenges,” brought experts from private, public, civil and academic organizations together to exchange ideas and best practices. The goal was to catalyze new thinking and discuss successes and challenges moving from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to SDGs, and the role of public private partnerships in this new agenda.
Novartis Foundation Board Member Dr. Rebecca Weintraub, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, delivered the event’s opening remarks, specifically highlighting the importance of a shared commitment to partnerships between the private sector and other players.
Dr. Peter Lamptey, President Emeritus FHI360 and Professor of NCDs, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, also spoke at the event. FHI360 is one of the key partners to test an innovative model for screening and managing hypertension in an urban district in Ghana. The intervention seeks to improve the control of hypertension by making services more accessible in the community while empowering individuals to control their own hypertension.
The event emphasized that for the foundation, what remains unchanged – and is particularly relevant to the new SDG agenda – is its way of working: always in partnership and in dialogue with local and global partners, with an emphasis on public-private partnerships, cross-sector collaboration and co-creation with the end-users. This people-focus means the foundation looks at how to innovate healthcare delivery and not just the delivery of innovation.
Ann Aerts showing her support for the Sustainable Development Goals
“We seek to build evidence on what type of delivery models and technology are effective, and then adapt and apply them to help manage the overall dual burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases that low- and middle-income countries are now facing,” said Dr. Ann Aerts.
Novartis HR expertise supports Training Centre in Tanzania
Thomas Dannenberger, Head Learning Operations, Development Learning Office, in Basel, has been working as a volunteer with the Novartis Foundation-supported Tanzanian Training Centre for International Health (TTCIH) in Ifakara, Tanzania since November 2014. We spoke to him about his experience 1 year later, and what he learned as a result.
How did you become a volunteer supporting the TTCIH? Thomas Dannenberger: There was article in a Novartis internal magazine about associates that were involved using their skills to support the TTCIH, and it mentioned that they specifically needed to strengthen their HR skills. That was a trigger for me: while I am no expert in the context of global health or Tanzania, I have experience in HR and training for Novartis, and thought maybe this could be useful.
Dannenberger with Hilda Sarapion, HR Manager for TTCIH
How did you support the HR function at the TTCIH? Thomas Dannenberger: It was important to align the HR activities to the business plan of the training center and to enable the TTCIH to reach their business goals while understanding the needs of its associates. So running a workshop and interviews gave great insight not only toward the development of HR planning, but also to better understand the working life at TTCIH. I then worked with the team to develop an HR strategy and action plan for 2015, looking primarily at strengthening performance appraisals and, talent management processes, as well as updating HR policies. During the year, the TTCIH recruited an HR manager, Hilda Sarapion and then things just flew! With Hilda I now have regular exchanges – I always look forward to hearing how things are progressing and how we can problem solve together when she has challenges.
You had a chance to visit Ifakara. What was that like? Thomas Dannenberger: In the first briefing call we had, there was such a bad phone connection that I wondered: if this is still a barrier, what other challenges might there be? But when I arrived in Ifakara it felt like a ‘miniature Switzerland’ in rural Tanzania! The TTCIH and surrounding institutions are well-equipped, though the environment around is still challenging. For example, when visiting the local hospital, you realize how few resources the staff have. On the other hand, the people were so friendly – my favorite impression of my time there were the smiling children you meet in Ifakara town.
What did you learn as a result of your time working with TTCIH? Thomas Dannenberger: A few things. First, I really got the chance to uncover the world of corporate responsibility and saw for myself just how much Novartis is doing.
I also learned that what might have seemed to be the simplest and quickest way to help were not always ideal. For example, here in Basel we solve many problems and challenges with IT-based solutions, but this is not always the best answer – it was important to assess what was really needed and how best to help. This taught me that maybe we can simplify a little, not always complicate! I also realized that at Novartis we always work on “high-speed”...and this is not the reality in many other contexts.
I gained a lot by applying things I knew, but in a different way – I was able to contribute my experience and knowledge, and then adapt them to their needs. I think the team really appreciated the solutions we came up with together!
What was the most valuable part of your experience? Thomas Dannenberger: Going to visit the TTCIH and getting a chance to really understand their reality, the local situation and the challenges they face – and then working on possible solutions, rather than the other way around.
I also think the work with TTCIH has helped me gain perspective. For example, my work worries are not really worries compared to the reality many people face in Tanzania, where you struggle against economic hardship and disease.
Dannenberger with Prof. Senga Pemba, Director of TTCIH
What is your perspective on the future? Thomas Dannenberger: I believe the TTCIH will continue to have a sustainable impact on the health system in Tanzania, and I look forward to seeing their HR function actively contributing to this. After sharing my experience volunteering with TTCIH with my Novartis team, many colleagues are now also interested in volunteering!