In 2011, Partners In Health launched Compañeros En Salud (CES), a sister organization that operates out of 10 rural government clinics in the Sierra Madre mountains of Chiapas—one of the most marginalized regions in the country—to improve staffing, supplies, and links with local communities.

In partnership with local health jurisdictions, CES revitalizes underperforming rural clinics, providing high-quality care to vulnerable people who previously had no reliable health services. By focusing on primary care, CES strives to improve health outcomes and decrease the cost of seeking health care outside the community.

CES recruits motivated Mexican physicians entering a required social service year to staff clinics. The physicians receive direct supervision, mentorship, and training from CES staff and Brigham and Women’s Hospital residents. They also participate in seminars created by Harvard Medical School and Tecnológico de Monterrey, a highly regarded medical school in Mexico. This comprehensive support and training program helps build the next generation of social justice physicians in Mexico.

To ensure clinicians have the tools they need to provide high-quality care, CES supplements medicines, diagnostic equipment, and supplies in its clinics, using a system designed to forecast needs and avoid stock-outs.

CES uses the community health worker model pioneered in Haiti to visit patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The workers help patients better understand their conditions and adhere to medications.

Mexico’s health care system can be difficult to navigate and expensive. Through its Right to Health program, CES assists 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. CES also arranges 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 growing need for specialized care, CES trains physicians to properly diagnose and treat the most common mental illnesses, such as depression and schizophrenia.

CES works to build strong relationships with community members. Staff members coordinate closely with village health committees, village assemblies, women’s groups, schools, and other institutions to set priorities and plan programs. In collaboration with volunteers, CES has also visited the homes of more than 5,000 people to identify those with risk factors or symptoms of diseases that frequently go undiagnosed, such as diabetes, hypertension, tuberculosis, asthma, and depression.

By the numbers:

Total population: 4,796,580
Life expectancy at birth: 72
Adult prevalence of diabetes: 5.6%
Adult prevalence of Hypertension: 11.7%
Population living below national poverty line: 74.7%