Global health: How all GPs can support primary care in the world's poorest communities

As One, a new campaign from charity Health Poverty Action, is asking GPs to donate the fee from one cremation form to help support primary healthcare in some of the world's poorest countries. Dr Rory Honney explains why he became involved.

I am a GP partner and a public health doctor working in the UK with a particular interest in global health.

This March, I’m asking my fellow doctors to stand ‘As One’ with primary healthcare professionals around the world. All it takes is donating the fee from one cremation form.

The conditions for many primary healthcare professionals internationally are exceptionally challenging. Poverty, a lack of resources and geography all make it hard for healthcare professionals to reach the most isolated.

But despite these challenges they, like us, are determined to deliver the best possible care to their patients. I want to introduce you to three healthcare professionals who highlight the difficulties they face on a daily basis.

Dr Sami Juarez (above) is the director of San Carlos Sija Health Centre in Guatemala. Working in Guatemala he faces many challenges. ‘As a doctor working in public health, the hardest thing for me is the lack of medical equipment and medicine, [because] proper medical attention isn’t just about the doctor, it’s also about resources,’ he explains.

Equally, Chantal Mutarambirwa (above) a nurse in Rwanda finds ‘the inability to afford health services a real challenge. Baby incubators are not really expensive (around £200) and now most of parts of the country have access to electricity, however only 21 district hospitals have incubators. There are more premature deliveries than a number of incubators available. It leads to automatic death of some babies. I am a mother too. I understand what losing a baby means.’

In some cases, according to Dr Norman Jefferson Zuniga White, an integral general doctor in Nicaragua, ‘we only have an obstetrician and a surgeon, so if there are problems it’s the general doctors who deal with them, even though we don’t have the specialist knowledge. We do our best though.’

In the UK we also face challenges on a daily basis, but I personally couldn’t imagine coping without even the most basic equipment, or trying to provide care without access to all the necessary medication. But, as you can see, in spite of the challenges, our colleagues abroad are striving tirelessly to improve health outcomes for their patients, just as we are.

As One campaign

Health Poverty Action, the charity behind the As One campaign, believes that primary healthcare is the key to improving the health of entire communities. This is why I ask other GPs, this March, to join me and stand in solidarity with hundreds of healthcare professionals like Dr Juarez, Dr White and Chantal and donate the fee from a single cremation form to the As One campaign.

Let’s ensure that ‘Health for All’ becomes more than just an aspiration.

I chose to become a GP in part because of an aspiration to help not just individual patients, but whole communities. NHS clinicians are being placed under ever-increasing strain and supporting one another is critical to overcoming this. Despite these pressures, I hope you too will extend that support to colleagues and their patients in some of the poorest, most remote places in the world, because when we come together – As One – we can achieve so much more.

All it takes is a donation equivalent of one cremation form fee for you to join us in this campaign. For more information visit healthpovertyaction.org.uk/as-one.

  • Dr Honney is a GP in Hampshire

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