PIH's Mission Statement: Explained

An exploration of what drives our everyday work

Posted on Dec 23, 2021

At Partners In Health (PIH), our daily work is ultimately driven by our patients—whom we often call “our bosses.” But, beyond our bosses is an overarching set of guiding values and principles: our mission statement. It’s the “why we do it” rather than simply “what we do.”

Since the founding of PIH in 1987, we’ve had a mission statement, which has remained consistent over the years and always conveyed our commitment to social justice and high-quality health care. In five sentences, it explains why we exist, whom we serve, and how.

Our mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. By establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations based in settings of poverty, Partners In Health strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair.

We draw on the resources of the world’s leading medical and academic institutions and on the lived experience of the world’s poorest and sickest communities. At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone.

When our patients are ill and have no access to care, our team of health professionals, scholars, and activists will do whatever it takes to make them well—just as we would do if a member of our own families or we ourselves were ill.

 

Below, we take a closer look at our mission statement and provide more context to what drives our everyday work:

Our mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care.

The phrase, “preferential option for the poor in health care,” means providing a health care option for low-income and resource-poor individuals and families, so those who need care most, come first in line. It’s articulated in the liberation theology of Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian priest and long-time mentor and friend to PIH Co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer, and explored further in the book they co-authored, In the Company of the Poor.


By establishing long-term relationships

We accompany communities as long as necessary and only by their invitation. Across most sites, this has involved decades of partnership, including more than 30 years in Haiti. In 2021, several countries where PIH works celebrated long-term anniversaries: 10 years for PIH Canada, 10 years for Compañeros En Salud in Mexico, and 25 years for Socios En Salud in Peru.

Paul Farmer, Yolande Lafontant, and Pere Lafontant
Left to right: Pere Lafontant, PIH Co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer, and Yolande Lafontant in Cange, Haiti. Archival PIH Image

with sister organizations

Our sister organizations are local organizations all around the world that are all part of our “OnePIH” family. Staff deliver direct care to patients, coordinate and support global work, provide technical advising, and educate the next generation of global health professionals.

staff in Haiti
PIH Co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer meets with pediatric staff at Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, in Mirebalais, Haiti, to discuss a patient's medical history in December 2016. Photo by Rebecca E. Rollins / PIH

based in settings of poverty,

We work in regions where a majority of the population is impoverished and facing poverty, which is a sustained deprivation of “resources, capabilities, choices, security, and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living,” as defined by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

patient walking stairs in Peru
A patient and health care worker climb stairs in the district of Carabayllo, Lima, Peru. Photo by William Castro Rodriguez / PIH

Partners In Health strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them

Many people who live in settings of poverty continue to suffer and die from preventable, treatable diseases. By bringing evidence-based treatments, medications, and diagnostics to these patients, we help save lives. 

Some examples of this include:

  • Fighting tuberculosis (TB) with modern detection, treatment, prevention, and research across PIH sites. In 2020, for example, the Socios En Salud team conducted over 11,200 TB resistance tests and performed almost 50,000 X-rays to actively search for TB in and around Lima, Peru.

  • Modernizing the blood bank to safely screen and store blood for lifesaving transfusions at PIH-supported Koidu Government Hospital in Sierra Leone.

patient speaks with physician
Randy Robles, a patient with tuberculosis, speaks with Dr. Epifanio Sánchez in the Carabayllo district in Lima, Peru in December 2017. Photo by William Castro Rodríguez / PIH

and to serve as an antidote to despair.

PIH combines accompaniment, solidarity, technical expertise, academic excellence, and optimistic action. The result of this powerful mixture is what we refer to as the”antidote to despair.”

toddler nutrition clinic
As part of the Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) program, patients and their caregivers meet every two weeks at Wellbody Clinic in Kono District, Sierra Leone, for a health talk and to prepare and take home a supply of food fortified by Bennimix, a locally available nutritional supplement. The program is led by Mariama Mansaray, a nurse and Wellbody's nutritionist. Photo by Maya Brownstein / PIH

We draw on the resources of the world’s leading medical and academic institutions 

Our work is fueled by partnerships with national governments and local districts and with academic institutions, such as Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the United States and the University of Global Health Equity in northern Rwanda.


and on the lived experience of the world’s poorest and sickest communities.

Nearly all PIH staff—99% to be exact—are from the country where they work. Staff grew up in the communities, have worked in the neighborhoods, and understand the needs of patients and how to provide culturally relevant care. Many patients have also become PIH employees and inform the quality care provided in communities and facilities all around the world.

outdoor health clinic in Peru
Mini health campaigns were carried out between November and December 2020, in the Casa de la Salud El Polvorin, in the district of Carabayllo, Lima, Peru. Health workers provided mental health, community health and maternal and child health assistance. Photo by Valia Ayola for Partners In Health

At its root, our mission is both medical and moral.

We have worked to prove that comprehensive health care is not only a moral duty, but also universally achievable. We strive to address the entirety of the burden of disease and suffering, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional, and whether it is acute, chronic, or palliative.

 

It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone.

We are driven by the belief that all human lives are equally valuable and that every person has the inalienable right to be healthy.

community health representative with patient
Martha (right), a community health representative for more than three decades, with Julia, a high-risk patient in Crownpoint, New Mexico in March 2018. Photo by Cecille Joan Avila / PIH

When our patients are ill and have no access to care,

Our patients are diagnosed with a wide range of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cholera, TB, HIV/AIDS, and more. We provide care and referrals for all conditions and illnesses. Across most sites, patients live in rural, hard-to-reach communities where there are no health facilities, or those that do exist have an inadequate supply of what we call “the 5 S’s”: staff, stuff, space, systems, and social support.

nurse with baby
Naphtal celebrated his first birthday on June 3, 2021 in Kono District, Sierra Leone. He is one of the first infants to receive lifesaving care at PIH-supported Koidu Government Hospital's Special Care Baby Unit. Dr. Naphtal Nyirimanzi, the pediatrician who led his care and after whom Naphtal is named, holds him. Photo by Maya Brownstein / PIH

 


our team of health professionals, scholars, and activists will do whatever it takes to make them well—just as we would do if a member of our own families or we ourselves were ill.

PIH staff include health professionals (physicians, nurses, community health workers, etc.), scholars (from various academic institutions around the world), activists (such as our co-founders), and others, who are committed to helping our patients feel well and live a full, healthy life—just as they would want for their own parent, sibling, child, or loved one.

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