Minister of Health Visits Brigham and Women's Hospital
Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, minister of Health in Rwanda, shares the successes of the Human Resources for Health program with BWHers.
The impact of the Human Resources for Health (HRH) program on
Rwanda is not simply improving health in the African country; it's changing
"This program is a way that we can reverse the injustice of
poverty," said Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, minister of Health in Rwanda, of HRH's
The seven-year HRH program is a partnership between the Rwandan
government and universities and hospitals in the U.S. that strives to achieve
one goal: to help Rwanda develop a high-quality and sustainable health care
system. The program enables Rwanda to educate and train its health care
workforce, care for the country's patients and, as an indirect result, generate
new jobs for the country that will stimulate economic growth.
BWHers filled the Bornstein Amphitheater last week to hear
Binagwaho and BWH President Betsy Nabel, MD, discuss Rwanda's health care needs
and HRH's first year of progress. Binagwaho likened her country's challenge in
developing its own health care workforce to the classic "chicken and egg"
"How can we produce these professions we need when we don't have
the people to train them?" she asked. "So we thought about creating
partnerships with universities and hospitals like the Brigham. Let's borrow ‘chickens'
from the U.S. to produce ‘eggs' for Rwanda. This is a way to bring more justice
by improving access to care."
HRH launched last fall, with 97 faculty members-nine of whom are
BWH physicians-participating from 23 universities in the U.S., including
Harvard Medical School. The faculty members are focused on educating and
training the next generation of doctors, nurses, midwives and other health care
professionals in Rwanda.
When the program concludes in 2019, Rwanda's workforce should be
sustainable without foreign aid. In its first year, HRH is focusing on
educating professionals in five specialties: gynecology, internal medicine,
surgery, pediatrics and anesthesiology. After two years, the program will begin
to focus on building subspecialties, such as pediatric surgery.
The needs in Rwanda are staggering. The country currently has six
physicians per 100,000 people. By comparison, Boston alone boasts 1,053
physicians per 100,000 people. There isn't a single cardiac surgeon,
pathologist or cancer specialist in the country. HRH works to strengthen these
and other specialty fields experiencing critical shortages.
Led by co-investigators Robert Riviello, MD, MPH, an associate
surgeon in the Division of Trauma, Burn and Surgical Critical Care, and hospitalist
Corrado Cancedda, MD, HRH also builds upon the existing partnerships that many
BWHers have formed in Rwanda, including those through the Division of Global
Health Equity, Partners In Health, the Center for Surgery and Public Health and
the BWH-led Team Heart. While the HRH model builds on these programs and
efforts, it also raises existing collaborations to an academic level to ensure
Rwanda's health care workforce can achieve long-term success.
"This is a wonderful partnership," Nabel said. "I believe that
reciprocity is the prize at the end of the day. We benefit from learning from
one another and growing through this experience."
BWH President Betsy Nabel (right) joins Rwanda’s Minister of Health Agnes Binagwaho for a presentation about the Human Resources for Health partnership.