Partnerships between health facilities – a win-win scenario for all involved

Medical staff cares for a newborn in a partner hospital in Eritrea

In the last few years, significant development has been achieved in developing countries and emerging economies in the area of health care. However, at this point avoidable infections and the rise in non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer are still presenting a great challenge to these countries' health systems.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) laid down in the 2030 Agenda show that the international community is committed to jointly tackling the current global challenges. SDG 3 reads: "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages." The best tool for making that happen is a strong and effective health system.

Developing such a health system requires hard work. According to WHO (World Health Organization) estimates, there is a shortage of 17 million doctors, nurses and midwives worldwide. Moreover, many health facilities in developing countries find that their work is hampered by inefficient administrative procedures and poor management.

Long-term twinning arrangements between health facilities in Germany and facilities in developing and emerging economies are a perfect tool for sharing knowledge and improving health services in Germany's partner countries. As a result, each partner can share their respective knowledge on symptoms, treatment options, technologies and administrative procedures – a win-win scenario for all involved.

Video: "Hospital Partnerships - The film"

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Exchange of expertise among colleagues

In September 2016, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Else Kröner-Fresenius Foundation joined forces and launched the "Hospital Partnerships – Partners Strengthen Health" initiative.

It comprises two support programmes:

  • The "Health Partnerships – Global" programme consists of projects all over the world in a variety of areas. It supports the transfer of knowledge between medical and technical personnel, nurses and office workers in order to help develop scientifically sound and feasible solutions to existing problems. Every year, two rounds of project support are conducted. The BMZ is providing eight million euros for this programme. 4.6 million euros is provided through the Else Kröner-Fresenius Foundation.
  • The "University and Hospital Partnerships in Africa" programme has a regional focus and targets primarily higher education institutions, university hospitals, teaching hospitals and research institutions. Usually, an invitation for proposals for specific activities is issued every three years to facilities in Germany and in sub-Saharan Africa. This programme is being supported by the BMZ with four million euros.

The projects that receive support always focus on partner countries' specific needs, for example with regard to training midwives and introducing hygiene arrangements in hospitals. By building networks between health facilities in Germany and in partner countries, the initiative helps to bring about sustained improvements in these countries' health systems.

An initiative with strong partners

Cooperation of scientists in Nairobi, Kenya

The Else Kröner-Fresenius Foundation is an important partner for the German government when it comes to supporting twinning arrangements between hospitals. The Foundation not only provides funding to the initiative but also vast experience from decades of supporting humanitarian health projects.

Some analytical input is also being provided by the German Health Ministry and WHO. Moreover, the hospital partnerships are part of the European ESTHER Alliance. The initiative applies the Alliance's quality standards in its programmes. The Alliance gathers insights and experience from health partnerships and shares best practices with all its members.

Since the "Hospital Partnerships – Partners Strengthen Health" initiative was launched in the second half of 2016, it has met with great interest among the German public and health experts. The initiative now supports a total of nearly 100 partnership projects in 38 countries.

In addition, the "Partnerships for the Health Sector in Developing Countries" (PAGEL) programme of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides support to health partnerships in more than 20 countries.

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