Dignitas International, a Canadian-based NGO which tailor-made a health worker toolkit for rural Africa, wants to see if that same model can improve health care in Canada’s north.
Health care needs in rural Africa parallel those in Canada’s remote, northern regions. Both regions have chronic, health care worker shortages, lack sophisticated diagnostic technologies and rely mainly on nurses – not physicians – to treat patients.
Dignitas International has spent the last seven years in Malawi training health workers, identifying barriers to health care and collaborating with nurses, doctors, and researchers to develop practical and effective health care innovations.
One such innovation is Streamlined Tools and Training (STAT). With funding support from the Canadian government and developed in partnership with researchers at the University of Cape Town’s Knowledge Translation Unit in South Africa, STAT helps health workers treat conditions such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and pneumonia. The toolkit and practical training help health workers in Malawi identify diseases and infections that are often missed or misdiagnosed, especially in rural areas where many health workers are overworked and experience higher disease prevalence rates.
“STAT is a tool that guides health workers in Africa to make better, more evidence-based decisions, “ said Dr. Michael Schull, Project Lead, Physician and Scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “For example, if a patient comes to clinic with a fever and cough, a health worker might assume that it is pneumonia. STAT reminds the health worker to enquire about other possibilities including tuberculosis and malaria.”
Kick-started with a $200,000 grant from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Dignitas researchers will conduct an assessment to determine if similar tools and practices can be applied in northern Canada. In many of these communities, the risks of maternal mortality are double and tuberculosis rates are at least five times the national average. Practical tools and training have the potential to dramatically improve the delivery of care and health of these populations.
“At Dignitas, we are trying to apply expertise gained in resource-strapped communities to improve health care around the world, including here at home”, said Barry Burciul, Associate Director of Research and Knowledge Translation for Dignitas International. “Our aim is to defend the health and dignity of the world’s most vulnerable. We cannot ignore the reality that Canada’s northern communities are also in need.”
Dignitas International is a Canadian leader developing solutions for global health. Committed to innovation since 2004, Dignitas works with patients, health workers, researchers, and policymakers to tackle barriers to health care in resource-limited communities. Combining frontline expertise and rigorous research, we save lives and defend the health and dignity of the world’s most vulnerable by increasing access to care, strengthening health systems, and shaping health policy at the regional and global levels.
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