Mexico guarantees universal health coverage for all its citizens, but fulfillment of that promise falls short for those living in remote locations. Rural public clinics are often empty because the government doesn’t assign them doctors or does so temporarily.
Partners In Health wanted to close that gap. Known locally as Compañeros En Salud, we started working in Mexico in 2011 and now operate out of 10 rural public clinics in the Sierra Madre mountains of Chiapas—one of the most marginalized regions in the country. Our goal is to improve staffing and supply of the clinics, and link them to more specialized care in hospitals outside the communities.
We recruit Mexican physicians entering a required social service year to staff clinics. The first-year physicians, or pasantes, receive supervision, mentorship, and training from our staff and Brigham and Women’s Hospital residents. They also participate in seminars created by Harvard Medical School and accredited by the Tecnológico de Monterrey, a highly regarded medical school in Mexico. This comprehensive support and training program helps build Mexico’s next generation of social justice physicians.
We manage community health workers who visit patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The workers, called acompaňantes, help patients better understand their conditions and adhere to medications.
To ensure clinicians have the tools they need, we provide supplementary medicines, diagnostic equipment, and supplies in clinics, using a system designed to forecast needs and avoid stock-outs.
Through our Right to Health program, we assist patients who require more complex care—such as surgery or chemotherapy—by helping schedule appointments, offering medical counseling, and providing financial support as they travel to hospitals in and around Chiapas. We also arrange transportation, meals, and lodging for patients and their accompanying relatives.
There is a high burden of mental illness in Chiapas but few practicing mental health professionals. To meet this need for specialized care, we train physicians and community health workers to properly diagnose and treat the most common mental illnesses, such as depression and schizophrenia.