Health system sustainability concerns everyone. What we take for granted would in many countries be seen as a luxury.
To many of us, having, nutritious food, clean water, a house to stay in, education and to be treated for causes of illness without having to walk for kilometres to end up at a closed hospital or turn to alternative options for care, are basic needs. However, this is far from the reality for all.
Embrace Health can be seen as HemoCue’s response to the lack of basic healthcare. The purpose of the initiative is to meet the needs of the people where they are–or as close as possible, and to act as a focal point for care.
The foundation of the first part of the initiative was to focus on anemia and this still remains. Yet, as anemia coexists with so many different diagnoses, the next step is to create awareness of the effect that health has on our well-being today and the impact it will have on our future. The two parts of the initiative are aligned to support and increase people’s well-being and to let babies not only survive but thrive.
Capacity development and local context
The initiative emphasises that we may not need additional separate screening programmes, but an integrated healthcare solution may have the biggest potential for long-lasting sustainable health. Capacity development can be implemented in the shape of community healthcare clinics and health posts, where a holistic view should be taken.
When designing the models and programmes, one should plan for a scale up but be mindful of differences. With typical differences in religion, culture, distance, beliefs, challenges, public health priority etc., it is important to value and respect these differences, yet motivate for change.
In areas where malaria is prevalent, screening for anemia, while also testing for malaria, may have a positive impact on the public health.
Furthermore, caring for adolescent girls should include screening of anemia, and in pregnancy care, anemia screening should be mandatory, especially as they may also live in areas where malaria is prevalent.
Deciding which kind of testing to perform must be addressed in relation to the context where the care is to be given and the prevailing risks to health.
“Understanding the process of funding, work and the needs involved in global health care is crucial for us in HemoCue in our efforts to be ahead of time and to be able to be part of capacity development and sustainable healthcare,” Lena Wahlhed, Director Alliance Development, HemoCue AB.
As Bjørn Christ, CEO of HemoCue AB, explains, early and accurate diagnosis play a crucial role in improving treatment outcomes. It is a purpose and objective that is directly in line with our vision of improving global healthcare with reliable, fast and easy patient diagnoses.
Public health: HemoCue’s fight
As much as 80 percent of the population in developing countries might be affected by anemia at some point. In Africa, the extent of the challenge is deep and far-reaching. Over 160 million children and women of reproductive age are anaemic. This makes it one of the most serious challenges that global public health is facing. It is for this reason HemoCue has joined the fight against anemia to help eradicate the condition globally.
And it is very much a condition that needs immediate action. “We need to act now. For each year we fail to act, we lose children, women, mothers, and they lose the ability to realise their life’s potential. The condition has massive intergenerational consequences and in order to know who is at most risk, and secure the future of the areas and groups that are especially at risk, screening for anemia is key,” Lena says.
For children, the condition can result in physical and cognitive losses and the best window of opportunity to make a difference is during the first 1,000 days of the newborn’s life. For the young women, avoiding anemia allows for a healthier pregnancy and reduced risk of complications at delivery.
Whereas the causes may differ, the highest prevalence of anemia is found in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Untreated anemia and malnutrition may be the cause to stunting, reduced growth rate in human development, and children who experience stunting have an increased risk for cognitive and learning delays with life-long consequences.
According to the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, around 58 million children under the age of five in Africa are stunted. Another 13.9 million suffer from wasting and 8 percent of adults older than 20 are obese. Anaemia affects more than 160 million children as well as women of reproductive age. Africa has grown a significant rate in recent years, yet malnutrition remains an inhibitor of the individual’s potential. The Global Panel argues that swift action to fight malnutrition promises to place the continent on a path towards sustainable economic success with clear positive implications for social and environmental wellbeing.
The effects of malnutrition on a population have impacts that goes beyond public health. Malnutrition perpetuates poverty and slows economic growth. Reports from the World Bank show that as much as 11 percent of the gross domestic product in Africa and Asia is lost annually due to the impact of malnutrition, or rather the health-related effects that malnutrition have.
Africa has grown a significant rate in recent years, yet malnutrition remains an inhibitor of the potential of every individual on the continent. According to the Global Panel, action to fight malnutrition must be taken in order for Africa to achieve sustainable economic success, and that this has clear positive implications for social and environmental wellbeing.
Other global conditions, which may also coexist with other diseases, are the non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cancer. These are also escalating in numbers, affecting lives and impact on health systems, and is why these also have a place in capacity development.
Diabetes play a part in the difficulties that some populations face in rising out of poverty, and even though it does not affect as many as are affected by anemia, the costs for society, families and the patient are enormous.
Diabetes is easy to screen for, monitor and diagnose, yet treatment may require life-long medication, which is why preventive actions are needed. First, urgently, define how to prevent the disease. Second, find those at risk and third, treat those being diagnosed–as early as possible to avoid severe complications. It is furthermore important to detect during pregnancy when the woman is at risk for gestational diabetes. Once again, actions need to be tailored to the public health priorities and main causes of illness and obstacles related to its population.
HemoCue Embrace Health Part 1
Global call to action on anemia
With HemoCue’s Global Call to Action, the purpose is to further shed light on the significance of screening and treatment of anemia. The call to action is created in support of the World Health Assembly’s target of a 50 percent reduction of the condition by 2025.
“We see a massive public health potential in addressing anemia, even where resources are scarce, as the condition coexists with, and has a major impact on, other diseases and as it can be included in other projects and healthcare programmes in these areas. We see that anemia fits into a lot of existing projects and programmes and that we with our product can play a vital role in eradicating anemia and improving the lives of others through capacity-development initiatives,” Lena states.
HemoCue Embrace Health Part 2
In HemoCue we are eager to bridge the gap from project to a sustainable and long-term solution. Practically, this mean investing in making the solution available for sustainable localised implementation and use, through collaboration, partnerships and innovation “HemoCue is very proud to partner with so many large global–and local NGOs in the effort to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and for the people to not only survive, but thrive. We are proud of our organisation that allows us to make a true and lasting difference in healthcare through our solutions,” Lena says about the Embrace Health initiative.
Cost-effectiveness through capacity development
It is safe to assume that capacity development will be a high cost right now, but the return on the investment will be tremendous, as it, as declared by World Economic Forum, will help economies grow with equity, strengthen social stability, increase people’s well-being and help them live with dignity. The sooner we start, the sooner the return on investment and healthier, wealthier and stronger societies.
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