Family Medicine: An Innovative Partnership
Healthy lives for all is a pillar stone of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The previous millennium development goals did much to reduce disease especially infectious diseases, and improve the outcomes of maternal and child health by encouraging countries to invest in essential services for health such as skilled birth attendants, malaria eradication programmes, HIV services for detection and rollout of therapy, TB identification and treatment. But despite substantial investment diseases haven't disappeared and on top of the burden of infectious diseases all countries are seeing an exponential rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs)..
Those most affected and most disadvantaged by illnesses such as cancers, heart disease, diabetes, mental illness, COPD are those living in low and middle income countries. Why? Because NCDs require consistent continuous care, treatments are not short term but often life long once diagnosed. The best outcomes for NCDs are via early detection, but early detection requires a knowledgable, skilled health workforce who are working locally with and among those most at risk of illnesses.
Waiting for severe symptoms before being seen at busy outpatient city hospitals and travelling miles for diagnosis and treatment plans means that the majority of people who live in rural regions with limited health care facilities, or for those living in poverty in cities are either seen too late to be treated effectively and efficiently, or they are never seen at all and end up in unbearable suffering.
What is the solution?
The solution that the Christian Medical College (CMC) Vellore has adopted is captured in the mantra of the Department of online family medicine "resolve more refer less " - Family Medicine is a solution to strengthen healthcare at community level, with doctors equipped to manage the majority of the health problems they see in their clinics. removing the need to constantly triage up to district hospitals where staff are already under enormous pressure.
This is the solution that the new Masters in Family Medicine programme has taken to a new level. Awarded by the University of Edinburgh, in conjunction with CMC vellore and partnering with ICMDA, the programme recognises that family medicine practice is not just a set of skills and knowledge but a medical speciality that has the power to transform the health service by bringing the expert medical knowledge into health centres.
The speciality of Family medicine is not only about building experts in the community, it is also about these experts providing continuous care, so patients are not just seen once by a practitioner and then left, but that they are followed through, their care is holistic and their illnesses are detected, managed, reduced, and their wellness prioritised.
The film features some of the students and doctors involved in the innovative Family Medicine course. Led by academics from Edinburgh's Global Health Academy, it uses online teaching methods as well as face-to-face learning to provide better healthcare in rural areas of India.
This speciality, like the specialities of surgery and obstetrics has the power to turn the wheels around, so that those with the greatest health needs receive the best care at the most local setting to where they live and where their carers are based, that is in their family, in the community.
This specialty and the new Masters programme was the focus of a recent visit to Chennai