To mark World Diabetes Day, The New York Times published an opinion piece examining the challenges to treating the disease in Haiti.
The authors of the piece, Palav Babaria and Aisling O'Riordan, know Partners In Health and our Haitian sister organization, Zanmi Lasante, well. Babaria, now a primary care physician at Highland Hospital in Oakland, worked with PIH in Hinche, Haiti, from 2012-2013 through the University of California, San Francisco's Global Health-Hospital Medicine Fellowship. Similarly, O'Riordan, who graduated in 2011 from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, volunteered with PIH and worked with the pediatrics team in Hinche during the same period.
Babaria and O'Riordan draw lessons from a specific patient encounter during their time in Haiti. The piece weaves an anecdote about the needless death of a 12-year-old boy, Jean-Paul, with a critical discussion of the factors that contributed to it.
The story of Jean-Paul illuminates the supply chain challenges that persist not only in Haiti, but in nearly all resource-poor countries. It also showcases how woefully inadequate public infrastructure impedes the delivery of quality health care. This is why PIH is committed to forging enduring partnerships with a variety of stakeholders that strengthen the entire health system. As rates of noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes climb, PIH will continue to work to make medications and diagnostics cheaper and easier to access for the world's poor.
In the op-ed, Babaria and O'Riordan write:
Jean-Paul was 12 when he died. A diabetic, he might well have lived if not for a tragically simple problem, common in rural Haiti: the glucose test strips available did not match the only glucometer we had access to in our rudimentary district hospital.
We are doctors—one American, one Irish—who worked as volunteers at the town hospital in Haiti’s desperately poor central plateau last spring. On the storm-drenched night that Jean-Paul arrived at the emergency room, we rushed to him through corridors clattering as if glass were breaking, as rain pelted down and leaked through the tin roof, forming puddles and muddy rivulets on the floor.
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