I’m working in Brazil as part of a U.S. Department of Education grant in Health Information Technology. This grant works as a supplement to the HIGHER (Houston Initiative for Global Health, Education and Research fellowship I received last march to do international public health work. “What the hell do you know about Health IT?,” you may ask. Absolutely nothing. But that’s kinda the point. So now, it’s day one of the actual program (I got here over the weekend and I’ve got pictures to back it up) and I’ve been inundated full of health information. Not just Health IT, but basic health system understandings of Brazil and I’ve heard various opinions on how successful the system is. One thing is for sure, what Brazil is doing with health is something that both nonindustrialized countries like Sudan and industrialized countries like the United States (yes, I’m calling us out) can learn from.
I’m hoping this exchange, which is a month-long, will lend itself to me explaining the various parts of the Brazilian health system and how nations with disparate GDPs can all learn from the Brazilians. I’m not gonna lie, there might also be pictures and discussions of Carnival, the beach, the people and the FOOD!
Today I’ll explain what I learned about the program I will be evaluating. redeNUTES is the health information technology exchange program for the state of Pernambuco in Brazil. Basically in every state of Brazil, there is a team of health specialists composed of a doctor, nurse, dentist and community health workers. This team works to educate about and prevent major health issue in the rural areas of each state that do not have hospitals nearby. These family health teams, referred to as PSF (Programa Saude de Familia), were created due to the overcrowding that was seen in hospitals due to issues having to deal with primary care. Sound familiar? It should, we have the same issue in the U.S. Anyway, they created PSF to reduce the number of people going to the hospital for health issues that are completely avoidable with education and prevention. So in this PSF strategy, the idea came about that if these teams of doctors, nurses, dentists and community health workers were educated on issues specific to their patient population and were able to receive support (like second opinions or information from specialists) they would be able to overt situations in which patients would travel days to a hospital and overload it with a problem as simple as an eye infection.
The redeNUTES program was the first of it’s kind, and was implemented in 2003. The offer seminars (on various issues effecting a majority of PSF team patient populations) and individual teleconferencing where any member of the PSF team may pose a case study or ask a simple question via email and receive a response from a specialist in the medical center in Recife within 48 hours. Based on it’s success the Brazilian federal government has supported the creation of eight other health information technology programs and hope to implement 14 more programs.
Okay, you might be bored, but this program is awesome and I think it would work wonders in the U.S. with specific communities as well as around the world because most people are not educated on preventative health measures and if we took the time to do this, we would minimize the number of people in hospitals who really don’t need to be there, while improving overall health of individuals and communities not to mention improve health systems as a whole and track the health and improvements of individual and families in useful and educational way. More later….