International Health Partners Equips Teams with Essential Health Packs for Medical Missions
Almost from its inception, International Health Partners (IHP) has been equipping individuals and teams with supplies for medical missions. The year it was established (2005), it launched the Doctors’ Travel Pack programme, providing 50 pre-prepared packs of medicine enabling clinicians to deliver healthcare in challenging settings. That October, packs were used in Kashmir within 72 hours of an earthquake that displaced 3.5 million people.
IHP went on to experiment with tailored packs for maternal health and medical electives. It collaborated on the latter with Cambridge University and has also consulted with the World Health Organization and British Medical Association on contents. In 2013, it sent more than 300 packs to 33 countries, and the following year it signed off its 1,700th pack. Refugees arriving in transit camps in Greece and Yazidi people who had fled to the Sinjar mountains were among those who received pack treatments.
A new partnership with logistics provider Alloga helped enlarge packing capacity, and in 2016 the programme was renamed Essential Health Packs (EHP) to reflect broader scope of use, from field clinics and government hospitals to refugee camps and crisis settings. Since then, more than 800 packs have been sent. The running total is now nearing 3,000.
An Essential Health Pack comprises two boxes filled with around 800 donated treatments of medicine considered “essential” for delivery of critical primary healthcare: antibiotics, analgesics, anti-inflammatories, anti-fungals and anti-parasitic medications, for example. Each is a mobile pharmacy, portable enough to transport on a commercial air flight as part of luggage.
Before the pandemic, IHP equipped one mission to the remote highlands of Nigeria. Sheffield-based lecturer Muhammad Saddiq traveled there with an EHP that helped treat around 400 people. At least one life was saved: that of a woman who stepped on a nail while weeding and developed a serious infection. The wound was cleaned and treated, and a set of antibiotics (and dressings) from the pack ensured she recovered. “Essential Health Packs cover a lot of the needs on the ground,” Muhammad remarks.
Currently, IHP is reviewing its EHP programme to ensure it aligns with strategic vision in areas such as health system strengthening and sustainability. IHP also wants to build stronger relationships with those who take packs. “We want to fully understand the value, challenges and risks of operation,” explains Louise Hart, director of programmes. Her team is using tools such as PQMD’s standards on medical missions to consider and implement best practice and welcomes opportunities to share learning: “We are keen to talk to others who are (or have been) on a similar journey, reviewing their work around medical missions.”
Get in touch with Louise at firstname.lastname@example.org