GIM 2008 -
POSTED ON: 01 Apr 2008
AUTHOR: Nsesa Kazadi
In Tanzania, the majority of healthcare is provided by the government, making it both the regulatory body and largest customer of HIV diagnostics in the country.
|GIM Tanzania 2008 leadership team, Nsesa Kazadi on far right.|
Our independent research project was to (1) determine how the various governmental organizations, like the Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Control Program (NACP), divided the responsibilities of providing healthcare to HIV patients nationwide; (2) to understand the regulatory process for new HIV diagnostic devices within Tanzania and (3) to present all 10 point-of-care diagnostic product concepts on the government officials to determine which product was the best fit for the Tanzanian need state. It was a huge, complicated problem and when we boarded the plane to Tanzania, we really had no idea how we would answer any of these questions.
|Working with government officials in Tanzania|
As it turns out, our team was able to answer everything above and more. We were stunned at how open and receptive Tanzanian government officials were to our request for interviews and information. Thanks to our association with Kellogg’s Global Health Initiative (GHI), and the Abbott Fund, a key partner with the Tanzanian government in improving their medical laboratory system and improving HIV health services, we were granted access to high level officials in all the key regulatory agencies. In these personal interviews, we learned about the HIV epidemic in Tanzania from the perspective of a national health care provider who does not possess the resources to diagnose or treat the majority of its patients. These people were highly impressive professionals. They talked to us about distribution, quality control, and profit margins. They understood the science behind the disease state and were very open about explaining how they approached distributing health care, given their limited resources. At the end of our interviews, we understood the development of the overall policy, the challenges Tanzania faces in testing and treating its largely rural population, the systems for evaluating and acquiring HIV diagnostics and therapeutic products, and their priorities for new diagnostic devices.
|Healthcare facility in Tanzania|
Through our new friends in government, we were invited to tour a variety of clinics and hospitals. These tours were very effective in helping us see the challenges that Tanzania faced. Their newest, most impressive laboratory was on par with what one might see in a community hospital in the United States. The most primitive laboratories were little more than a microscope on the counter in a small room with an open window. It was tough for me to see this. Living in the US, I take a lot for granted when it comes to my health care, including the ability to be properly diagnosed by my doctor. Seeing the conditions in these labs further underscored the deep need for accurate, simple point-of-care diagnostic devices like the ones being developed by GHI.
The most surprising thing about this experience is the fact that we were able to achieve all that we set out to do. The mere fact that a group of business school students with little to no expertise on HIV could arrive in Tanzania and gain access to these officials is still somewhat hard to believe. The reason we were able to do is because the HIV problem is so large while of the resources of the Tanzania government are small in comparison, that government is eager to talk with anyone who can potentially help ameliorate the situation. I felt a great sense of responsibility to the project after meeting with these officials. They desperately need the types of HIV diagnostics that we are developing here on campus. I only hope that we get these products to market quickly, so that can be used by our partners in Tanzania as soon as possible.