Case Studies, Now Online, Grapple With Global Health Dilemmas

For anyone interested in global health, fixing big problems in poor countries or just getting a sense of how the folks at Harvard Business School think, check out these newly accessible, free (for students and educators, at least) case studies that deal with thorny health care delivery dilemmas in poor regions of Rwanda, India, Haiti and throughout Africa.

The 21 studies range in scope and geography, for instance, Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis Treatment in Peru (a classic) to Botswana’s Program for Preventing Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission.

The case study model was pioneered at Harvard Business School to help students simulate a decision-maker role in examining various issues in the financial and corporate world. But a few years ago, the renowned doctors and medical anthropologists who launched the non-profit Partners in Health — Paul Farmer and Jim Kim, now president of Dartmouth — began to apply the case study method to public health problems in poor countries in collaboration with Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter.

Medical and other students needed some kind of out-of-classroom experience dealing with health issues among the poor, the thinking went, and short of getting on a plane, the cases provided detailed, real-life problems — and in some cases, solutions. And though some of the studies might appear dry — perhaps you’re not fired up about Building Local Capacity for Health Commodity Manufacturing: A to Z Textile Mills Ltd. — I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on classes with all three of these guys and I can say it’s truly inspiring and intellectually gripping. Never, ever dry. (In fact, the A-Z Textile case study is the amazing story of a local Arusha, Tanzania maker of insecticide-treated bednets to prevent malaria and the misaligned incentives that brought them, sadly, down).

All 21 cases were developed jointly by the Global Health Delivery Project, a collaboration between Harvard’s medical and business schools, the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Partners In Health.

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