Grameen Health to establish independent collaborations with Pfizer, GE Healthcare, and Mayo Clinic to create sustainable health care delivery models for the developing world

Boston 24 September 2008Grameen Health, an affiliate of Grameen Bank, the pioneering micro-financing organisation in Bangladesh that shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for its work to alleviate poverty, will establish independent partnerships with Pfizer Inc., GE Healthcare, and Mayo Clinic to create sustainable models for health care delivery in the developing world. Grameen Health has chosen to work independently with these partners because of their respective expertise: Pfizer Inc. is a research-based pharmaceutical company, GE Healthcare is a manufacturer of medical devices such as ultrasound and CT/MRI, and Mayo Clinic is an integrated, not-for-profit group practice.


These multiple, independent collaborations will focus on social business models in which the businesses are self-supporting and any profits are re-invested into the system in order to reach more of the poor. This approach is cost-effective and maximizes the benefits that patients receive. The models will be transferable to other health care delivery systems.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), among the biggest obstacles to improved health outcomes are inadequate health delivery and financing mechanisms that place the heaviest burden on the poor and sick, who are the least able to pay. The independent collaborations will initially explore and evaluate ways to improve the existing Grameen Health delivery and financing systems in Bangladesh, with the aim of creating models that can be adapted for the needs of the 4 billion people around the world whose annual income is less than $3000.

"As we address the challenges of global health access, we are pleased to partner with these and other organisations that share our belief that solutions to improving access to medicines and health care can be socially responsible and sustainable, yet commercially viable", stated Professor Muhammad Yunus, who shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank, which he founded and now directs. "In Bangladesh, we have found that only an economically viable solution can create the infrastructure needed to enable people to sustain themselves, alleviating the poverty cycle. We believe our knowledge and expertise in micro-financing can be applied toward the development of a sustainable health care system."

During the next year, the collaborations will focus on the following areas:

  • Implementing primary health promotion and disease prevention programmes. These are the most cost-effective steps in affordable health care, and include maternal and child health promotion and nutrition programmes.
  • Analysing ways to expand and improve the current low-cost micro-health delivery and insurance programmes at Grameen Health's 38 existing Kalyan clinics.
  • Developing continuous training programmes for nurses, technicians and physicians.
  • Reviewing operating efficiencies and scope of services - e.g., telemedicine, mobile health care - at Grameen Health's Kalyan clinics.
  • Introducing genomic, epidemiological, and outcomes research capability for the prevention and treatment of diseases relevant to the population in Bangladesh, with an emphasis on the best use of existing tested and approved procedures and drugs.

Grameen Health and its partners hope to develop appropriate and sustainable models for health care delivery and rural primary care clinics, with the goal of replicating these models in other countries. Pfizer is dedicating key employees to provide technical and advisory support to evaluate Grameen's existing health care delivery systems in Bangladesh. GE Healthcare will test delivery of ultrasound capability in rural clinics for early detection of abnormalities, and Mayo Clinic will work to improve the training, efficiency, and retention of staff at existing Grameen Health Kalyan clinics.

"Pfizer is honoured to work with Grameen to explore the development of non-conventional, efficient and sustainable health financing and delivery models. We believe Grameen's world-renowned success in providing innovative financial solutions for the poor, coupled with Pfizer's health care experience, human capital and extensive arsenal of medicines, has the potential to improve the lives of millions of patients", stated Jean-Michel Halfon, Area President of Canada, Latin America, Africa, and Middle East pharmaceutical operations, Pfizer Inc.

"GE Healthcare is committed to early health initiatives", stated Omar Ishrak, President and Chief Executive Officer, Clinical Systems, GE Healthcare. "We have affordable technology with advanced imaging and care capabilities that can make a difference to save lives. With the ubiquitous usage of ultrasound, GE believes it has provided a crucial tool in the early care of expectant mothers. We intend to work with Grameen Health to further understand and expand ultrasound usage in rural areas. Through this pilot programme we plan to train providers in the usage of ultrasound, evaluate the product, the training and the work flow that would be needed to enable the full deployment of this technology. This is one positive step towards accessible and sustainable health care for the developing world."

GE has taken steps to enhance accessibility of ultrasound through training and education, starting with a pilot programme with United States-based medical school students. Medical students participating in the pilot study also helped GE Healthcare to determine how medical students learn, to gather data from the "new ultrasound user" in order to improve the design of the ultrasound equipment, and to determine whether the use of the ultrasound device during medical training will have beneficial effects on medical training itself. The ultrasound curriculum adds a hands-on component with immediate results that show students the practical applications of technology in medicine.

"Technologies such as ultrasound can be used to help detect diseases earlier, when they can be more effectively treated", stated Dr. Bob Honigberg, Chief Medical Officer of GE Healthcare. "These pilot studies may provide support for more primary care physicians to utilize miniaturized ultrasound technology to supplement tools that are used today."

"Mayo Clinic and Grameen are exploring opportunities where our organisations can work collaboratively based on the junction of our missions and strategic priorities", stated Denis Cortese, M.D., president & CEO, Mayo Clinic. "These opportunities range from new methods of delivering care and dissemination of knowledge and best practices to education, clinical research and the use of new technology in non-traditional settings. Our two organisations are working diligently to find the opportunities that will have the best likelihood of improving health care delivery in developing countries."

Professor Yunus added: "Improving health care access and quality worldwide is a huge and long-term project. We would like to invite other partners and thought leaders to join in on the collaboration with Grameen Health, or to create their own social health care business models and share the results with us."

Pfizer is a research-based biomedical and pharmaceutical company, with 85.000 colleagues operating in more than 150 countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly one-third of the molecules on its "Essential Medicines List" are Pfizer medicines. More company news is available in the VMW August 2006 article Mercury Computer Systems signs agreements with new PACS vendors and suppports malaria research with Pfizer.

GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services that help clinicians around the world with new ways to predict, diagnose, inform and treat disease. GE Healthcare's broad range of products and services enables health care providers to better diagnose and treat cancer, heart disease, neurological diseases and other conditions earlier. GE Healthcare's vision is to enable a new "early health" model of care focused on earlier diagnosis, pre-symptomatic disease detection and disease prevention. More company news can be found in the VMW February 2008 article GE Healthcare teams with Centrak to introduce battery-based RFID asset optimization solution.

Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical speciality work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a "patient first" philosophy. More than 3300 physicians, scientists and researchers and 46.000 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has sites in Rochester, Minnesota; Jacksonville, Florida; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Arizona. Collectively, the three locations treat more than half a million people each year. More Mayo Clinic news is available in the VMW September article Researchers examine safety of Internet prescriber service providing erectile dysfunction medications.

Grameen Health (GH) aims to extend the success of the micro-finance model to health care by designing and developing a bottom-up health care infrastructure built from sustainable best practices in a broad range of health care services around the world, and improving upon them to deliver the highest quality health care in an efficient and sustainable manner for a broad market, including the poorest of the poor. GH will enable the poor to be self-sufficient in addressing their health care needs such that they can accept, but not require, outside assistance.

GH will be a nation-wide health care service for all people, but particularly focused on the poor women and children. Just as Grameen Bank brought financial services at an affordable price to poor women, GH will aim to bring state-of-the-art health services to all people - particularly poor women and children. GH is in discussion with some of the world's leading health providers. In addition to Mayo Clinic, GE Healthcare and Pfizer, Grameen is working on plans for collaborations with Massachusetts General Hospital, John Hopkins Hospital of the USA, Narayana Hrudayalaya of India, Johnson and Johnson, Bayer, BASF, Aga Khan University, and others.

This initiative will lead to the creation of a world class medical college and hospital, specialized hospitals, research centres in a 200 acre Health City, a series of nursing colleges, training programmes for technicians, second tier hospitals, and rural health management centres throughout the country. Each rural health management centre will be dedicated to improving and maintaining the health status of the people in its region, particularly focused on the poor women and children. These centers will be IT-linked with the Health City in Dhaka for continuous attention by specialist doctors and nurses. Through the nursing colleges, GH will train Bangladeshis - particularly the newly educated class of Grameen borrowers' daughters - to choose nursing as a profession and to serve in Bangladesh and abroad.

Leslie Versweyveld

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