One of the most inspirational global health champions fighting for health equity is Dr. Paul Farmer. He is an inspirational activist and actor in the field of development. Farmer is a co-founder of the non-governmental organization (NGO), Partner’s in Health (PIH). Partner’s in Health builds hospitals in twelve countries, including Haiti, Peru, and Rwanda, to provide free health care for people in resource-limited settings and strengthen existing public health infrastructures in those settings. After taking a course at UC Berkeley about HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa and gaining an informed perspective about NGO’s roles in public health, I support organizations that promote a community health worker model that empowers local people to build a public health infrastructure in their community that best suits their community’s needs.
PIH’s model of care- partnering with poor communities to combat disease and poverty- takes a comprehensive approach to global health equity. This model and PIH’s work inspired college students to start a youth movement to build awareness about health disparities in the world, especially the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This movement, Face AIDS, has college and high school chapters across the US and in other countries. Several peers from my HIV/AIDS course at Berkeley started a Face AIDS chapter at UC Berkeley to build awareness on campus about HIV/AIDS and raise money to support Partner’s in Health. The young women in this organization health foster my interest in global issues and boost my drive to be a more informed global citizen. At a Face AIDS national conference, I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Paul Farmer – yes, the public health rockstar himself – speak about his experience working with Face AIDS students at the PIH hospital in Rwanda. If you are impressed by Farmer’s work on paper (read Mountains Beyond Mountains), wait to you hear him speak. I was moved, empowered and motivated by the end of his hour long talk. It was inspiring to see pictures of his patients and the results that anti-retroviral medication provides for HIV/AIDS patients. Throughout his talk, Farmer was humble even though he has inner circle of globally influential friends, including Former President Bill Clinton who attended his birthday party the previous week. Needless to say, I am a big supporter of Farmer and PIH.
Also, after the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, PIH, and their partners at Zanmi Lasante in Haiti, were among the first responders in relief efforts. PIH’s campaign, Stand With Haiti, calls for a human rights-based approach to humanitarian assistance for Haiti. I believe that Dr. Farmer and his co-founders at Partner’s in Health are on to an effective NGO model that addresses the felt needs of a community and works to deliver comprehensive care.
Check out more about Dr. Paul Farmer for yourself:
-Hear an excerpt from Mountains Beyond Mountains