Developing Health Infrastructure
The Access Project improves the health of poor communities by applying business principles to public health centers and transforming them into efficiently run, economically viable facilities. In addition to providing management coaching and mentoring in 86 health centers across six districts serving two million Rwandans,
the Access Project partners with Rwanda Works to mobilize funding for health center construction and to ensure that every health center has clean water, electricity, and other critical infrastructure needed to provide quality health services.
The Need for Health Infrastructure in Rwanda
The Access Project functions on the premise that in order to sustainably improve health outcomes, every community must have access to a permanent local health facility that offers a full range of services, including HIV prevention and treatment programs, tuberculosis treatment, prenatal care, family planning and maternity care. The Rwanda Ministry of Health has determined that one health center is needed for each sector of approximately 15,000-25,000 people, though there are still manysectors today that are in need of a health facility.
Across the six Access Project intervention districts, more than 300,000 people live in sectors without a health center. These men, women, and children are among the poorest residents of Rwanda and often incapable of traveling the six or more hours required to access health care in a neighboring sector, thus the majority often go without preventive or curative care. Without health services, underserved communities are unable to increase their productivity and families powerless to pull themselves out of deep poverty. Access to health care is where it begins.
Breaking the Illness-Poverty Cycle: Constructing New Health Centers
Though Rwanda has made enormous strides in improving access to health care, there are still many rural communities that have no access to health care at all. To break the cycle of illness and poverty caused by lack of access to health services, the Access Project partners with Rwanda Worksand the Ministry of Health to build model health centers where they are most urgently needed. These new facilities serve an average population of 20-25,000 people and provide everything from top-quality primary health care to such critical services as HIV/AIDS, maternity, and tropical disease care.
To date, the Access Project in conjunction with Rwanda Works has overseen the construction of four new model health centers: Gashora and Ngeruka Health Centers were opened in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and Juru and Gataraga Health Centers were opened in August 2011. These state-of-the-art health centers are locally renowned and nationally admired, and often function as centers for training and demonstration. From the first day of operations at each facility, the Access Project provides hands on management coaching and mentoring to improve the operational skills of the health center staff.
The full cost of a new health center – from laying the foundation to installing energy efficient cookstoves for nutrition demonstrations to erecting the surrounding privacy fence – is approximately $500,000. Generous international support has funded the design, construction, and oversight of each new Access Project/Rwanda Works health center, though each facility is entirely government-owned, staffed, and equipped. Support from the Schmidt Family Foundation, the Pace Family Foundation, the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation, the MAIA Foundation, Harold Simmons, and others have enabled access to top-quality health services for over 100,000 people.
The Access Project’s combined focus on health management and infrastructure and its guiding principle that prosperity is only possible in a healthy society makes it uniquely positioned to meet the ambitious challenge of creating a healthy, productive population, thereby helping Rwanda reach its goal of becoming a middle-income country.