Medical staff participate in the launch of World Telehealth Initiative programming in Opoji, Nigeria
By Brittn Grey, Executive Director of Global & Domestic Immersion Programs
From its onset, COVID-19 has underscored and exacerbated global health disparities—from hard-hit health indicators to a rise in extreme poverty and disrupted education. With a Mission and vision that extend beyond borders, Providence has partnered with international non-profits since 2012 to promote sustainable, locally-led change, and redress global health inequities. Within this time of global uncertainty, Providence remains steadfast in supporting our international partners and is committed to ethical global health principles as expressed in the Brocher Declaration.
Across the pandemic, we have continued to support public health education and community capacity building, sponsored new water, hygiene, and sanitation projects at the healthcare facility level, and intentionally committed to growing our capacity sharing efforts through virtual channels for caregiver service. By sponsoring impactful global health strategies and accelerating solidarity-based initiatives, we contribute to global healthcare capacity on a journey toward the decolonization of global health. Key within this journey is the utilization of technology for global good. The explosion of telehealth as a result of the pandemic has illuminated a powerful nexus between compassion and innovation in technology rich settings. This same technology can support the advancement of health in historically under-resourced areas.
Providence’s global programs work with international partners who take an advocacy approach and are adept at bridging technology tools and access into low resource environments to build relationships and capacity sharing initiatives between US and international providers. Rather than allowing ourselves to believe that the digital divide is a neutral issue, we must advocate to ensure the benefits of technology and the resulting power of knowledge are in the hands of all: especially those whose countries bear the greatest global burden of disease with the fewest resources to combat that burden.
Through newly launched tele-mentoring initiatives with World Telehealth Initiative, Medical Teams International, and Seed Global Health, Providence is engaging our medical community in virtual capacity sharing efforts. Our current tele-mentoring locations and strategic partners include:
- Guatemala: Working with Medical Teams International, Spanish-speaking providers from Providence are serving as clinical mentors to Guatemalan Ministry of Health providers in El Quiché. Responding to a locally administered health system assessments and designed by on the ground staff, this initiative will strengthen continuing education in maternal and child health, emergency obstetrics, and monitoring and evaluation.
- Nigeria: Working with World Telehealth Initiative and using Teladoc technology, Providence clinicians are collaborating with Nigerian health professionals in the Opoji Kingdom. Through a partnership with World Telehealth Initiative, Urban Health 360, and Precious Gems, this layered initiative in Opoji includes community health outreach and the goal of reducing the need to refer complicated health cases to other regions by fortifying local capacity.
- Uganda: Working with Seed Global Health, emergency medicine specialists from Providence are collaborating with regional specialists and a network of 1,000 Ugandan clinicians through Project Echo’s virtual model for knowledge sharing and community empowerment. Our participation is in direct support of the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s goal to develop the new-to-Uganda specialty of emergency medicine.
Within each of these initiatives, the opportunity for learning is bi-directional; by working with Guatemalan, Ugandan, and Nigerian providers, Providence clinicians help to fill gaps within medical education in lower income countries while strengthening their own understanding of medical delivery in alternate geographies. This knowledge enhances Providence providers’ ability to respond to population health within a diverse landscape.
The use of virtual technology greatly expands our capacity to stand in solidarity with our neighbors in distant places. By engaging Providence caregivers in meaningful, virtual service opportunities with key partners, we respond to the call of the Sisters of Providence “to reach beyond the borders of our own country as global citizens” and to always “search for new ways to carry out the Mission, honoring Providence tradition, but not letting past practice constrict the vision of what is best for the future.”
In a time of world-wide uncertainty and crisis, there is an impulse to focus on what is immediately in front of us. For some health systems and organizations, this has meant withdrawing from global commitments just as the call to the common good grows louder. Health systems, organizations, and citizens of goodwill must resist the urge to focus only inward, and instead, remember our connectivity as a global family. Rather than watching the digital divide widen and the global community of health care providers struggle in silos, virtual capacity sharing opens a door to solidarity, service, and strengthening that will help us navigate this pandemic and what comes next—together.
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To learn more about what Providence is doing to partner with communities globally and domestically, check out the Global and Domestic Engagement page.
About the Author
Brittn L Grey is the Executive Director of Global & Domestic Immersion Programs within Providence, one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the United States. She provides oversight to Providence’s global partnerships and employee engagement in Guatemala, Mexico, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda, as well as to system led US volunteerism initiatives and immersion programming within Providence’s 7-state footprint. Brittn is committed to programming that supports transformative health outcomes, fosters global citizenship, and advances the common good.