Monday, September 29, 2008


The Institute for OneWorld Health is a non-profit pharmaceutical company that develops safe, effective, and affordable new medicines for people with infectious diseases in the developing world. OneWorld Health is a new model for GLOBAL HEALTH. They are entrepreneurial, generate unique opportunities, invent creative solutions.

There is an inspirational video that highlights the founder's passionate journey towards starting OneWorld Health. You can watch the short Uncommon Heroes movie by clicking on the link below:

-Shachi Khichadia

Monday, September 22, 2008

Medical Tourism

The Economist put out a good article on medical tourism:

Over the past few years, increasing attention has been directed at the millions of American's without health insurance. With all the political debates over the years, we have still to come up with a feasible solution for our country's 47 some million "medical refugees." Yet, in a somewhat unexpected way, one answer seems to arise from outside of our country's own borders – the notion of high-quality hospitals in other countries providing cheaper care. Medical tourism.

This whole phenomenon of medical tourism is fascinating to me as a student who has been told several times that healthcare delivery in the United States is local, and limited to the borders of our own country. Global health has traditionally been associated primarily with epidemiology; whereas, the business of hospitals remains the business of the local. But alas, the globalization of healthcare delivery; here is a situation that must be taken seriously. May Clinic and Hopkins are leading the way with branches in Singapore and the UAE. Grameen bank is partnering with a Japanese hospital system to deliver services to its members. Bumrangrad hospital in Thailand already sees thousands of American patients a year. Deloitte estimates that medical tourism will become a $21 billion a year to developing countries in less than 5 years.

Here's an example. Imagine Harold has to pay $60,000 for a spine surgical procedure at his local hospital down the street. Later in the week he sees an online add from a hospital in Thailand that is offering the same surgical procedure plus a luxurious week on a splendid Thai beach, with top quality service and free food, for a mere $30,000. Sounds good, but it's a hospital in Thailand, how good can it be? But then, he later finds out that the hospital is Joint Commission accredited (the highest accreditation that an American hospital can receive), and in fact, the surgeons in the Thailand hospital seem more renowned than his own hospital's. All of a sudden that deal looks pretty good.

Medical tourism is exciting in that, just like every other industry from auto to pharmaceuticals, healthcare delivery is catching the travel bug – its going global too! But, this is not enough. Yes, medical tourism is benefiting the middle-class, and yes medical tourism may lead to more competition, which may lead to better quality service amongst hospitals everywhere in the world. But, what about the implications for the poorest of the poor? Nevermind the profits that medical tourism can bring to a joint-accredited international hospital in Thailand. Another question we have to ask is, are these hospitals still serving their own people? Are these medical tourist programs simply bringing in profits for shareholders, or are they subsidizing community benefit programs for the local people, who most need services?

Overall medical tourism appears to be a good thing. But it still has a ways to go. First the US needs to start realizing that hospitals are going global - let's go with the flow and stop resisting. Second, and maybe more importantly, let's not forget about those who most need services. It would certainly be a shame if the American middle-class medical refugees brings about a new group of medical refugees - those in the very country that houses the hospitals.

-Derrick Pfeffer

Sunday, September 14, 2008

“FRONTLINE: Sick Around the World”

Health care is one of the big issues in the US presidential election, and there's no shortage of differences in opinion when it comes to the question of how to improve the domestic health care system. It's true that the US health system is one-of-a-kind, but the issues that voters and politicians are grappling with – lowering costs, improving quality, insuring equal access – aren't unique to the US. By understanding the solutions developed by other systems, we might be able to find better ones for our own.

A few months ago PBS aired a documentary called, “FRONTLINE: Sick Around the World.” It examines the health systems in 5 developed countries: the UK, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, and Taiwan. All of these countries spend less per capita on health care, and still score better in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality.

graph graph

At one end of the spectrum is the UK's NHS, which is a classic example of the kind of “socialized medicine” that would be politically unfeasible in the US. The other 4 countries' health systems rely, in varying degrees, on private providers and insurers working in conjunction with a series of government mandates and regulations. Each offers a slightly different set of solutions to problems that every country's health care system has to deal with.

Here's the link to watch the documentary and access other related resources and materials (including the above graphs.

-Andy Pritchard

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"Making Capitalism More Creative"

A couple weeks ago an article appeared in Time Magazine by Bill Gates. With an endowment of $38.7 billion, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a lot of money to work with. In this article Gates discusses the role of his Foundation, as well as leaders of NGOs, businesses, and governments, in solving global health problems. He writes,

"As a businessman, I've seen that companies can tap new markets right now, even if conditions aren't ideal. And as a philanthropist, I've found that our caring for others compels us to help people right now. The longer we wait, the more people suffer needlessly."
Read the whole article here, or watch the video here.

-Andy Pritchard