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"No One Should Die Because They Live Too Far from a Doctor"

By Jo Ann Endo | Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Improving health care worldwide requires investing in building the skills and knowledge of health workers in the most remote areas of the globe. Dr. Raj Panjabi knows this. He is the CEO of Last Mile Health, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

Last Mile Health works with governments to deploy teams of community and frontline health workers to bring life-saving primary care to the world’s most hard-to-reach communities. The organization’s work exemplifies the pursuit of the Triple Aim to simultaneously improve population health, enhance the patient experience, and reduce costs.

In 2017, Last Mile Health launched the Community Health Academy using funds awarded by the TED Prize. The Community Health Academy partners with Ministries of Health around the world to strengthen the clinical skills of community health workers and build the capacity of health systems leaders using digital tools. Their first free, online course, produced with edX and Harvard University, has already enrolled 10,000 learners from over 175 countries worldwide. 

Studies show that if high-quality community health systems were in place to deliver essential health services today, we could save at least 30 million lives by 2030. Last Mile Health is a leader in the movement to scale this work globally.


LEARN MORE: IHI National Forum


Dr. Panjabi will be a keynote speaker at the 2019 IHI National Forum (December 8-11, 2019 in Orlando, Florida, USA). In his writing, speaking, and interviews, he has touched on many themes and ideas relevant to health care improvers:

  • Leading with humility: "In my experience, I’ve found that if we share our vulnerabilities with the people we trust, we actually turn out to be stronger and can build on our common strengths."
  • Lessons for improving population health: "If we invest in the people closest to the problem we want to solve, we’re much more likely to be successful."
  • The need for gender equity in the health care workforce: “The poorest women on Earth subsidize health care globally to the tune of $1 trillion with their unpaid and underpaid work,” Panjabi has said. “That’s larger than the economies of over 150 countries.” He added, “Male-dominated professions are under-recognizing and under-valuing frontline caregivers, be they nurses, midwives or community health workers.”

  • The importance of improving rural health: “We’ve kind of written these communities off as too hard to reach or too hard to serve,” Panjabi has said. “No one should die because they live too far from a doctor, not in the 21st century.”
  • Why improving health care takes courage: “In every part of social change,” Panjabi has said, “you have to be willing to be fearless and brave.”

Jo Ann Endo, MSW, is IHI’s Senior Managing Editor, Digital Content & Blog.

You may also be interested in:

Sessions about Leadership and Population Health are part of IHI’s National Forum this December.

Why a 40-Year-Old Health Care Declaration Still Matters

Universal Health Coverage Without Quality Care Is Empty Rhetoric

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