Into Peru, Proudly

by Steve Thompson on February 13, 2013

Earlier this week, Johns Hopkins Medicine International announced a major collaboration with a prominent health care organization in Peru, Pacífico Salud. To quote from our press release:

The collaboration focuses on a network of Peruvian hospitals, an oncology clinic, clinical and pathology laboratories, and outpatient centers.

(Interestingly, Pacífico Salud is owned by the country’s leading insurance company. That’s not something you see in many places in the world—but in Peru, insurers are legally liable for malpractice, and so are highly incentivized to ensure that their customers receive the highest quality, safest care possible.)

While every project is exciting to us in its own way, there’s a special thrill in making our first foray into a new country. And we’re additionally excited about the fact that this international health care collaboration is altogether the first of its kind in Peru.

Peru is more than ready for this sort of ambitious health care project. Peru’s economy is, as a recent article in The Economist puts it, roaring. That makes Peru part of a select group of countries experiencing significant growth—and creating a strong middle class as their economies heat up. Much of this rapid growth has been in Asia, with China and India especially prominent. But Latin America has also been an engine of middle-class growth, led to some extent by Brazil.

When the middle class expands and strengthens, one of the first things people look for is better health care. That’s due to a combination of access to better information about health and health care, as well as the luxury of being able to allocate family resources on more than the basic necessities of life.

In Peru, and in much of Latin America, there are already many very good hospitals and clinics. But now many of these hospital systems, along with other health care organizations, are looking to achieve much higher levels of clinical care quality, specialization and safety. That’s one of the reasons we find ourselves doing more and more collaborative work there. (Much of this applies to the Caribbean, too.)

However, it’s not just economic growth that drives the trend to better health care. In fact, there are many factors we assess in determining what sorts of projects and collaborations are a strategic fit for Johns Hopkins Medicine. Among these are political and social stability in the geographic region. It’s not that populations ruled by oppressive regimes or roiled by war—civil or otherwise—are less deserving of high-quality health care. It’s just that strong health care systems are hard enough to establish even in supportive, conflict-free environments.

In all of these regards, Latin America has made tremendous strides over the past several decades. Governments there are now, by and large, democratically elected and get much the same level of support from the population as do governments in the U.S. and Western Europe. (Though some may suggest that’s not saying much.) The peace is kept by civil policing rather than military force. No wonder the region is free to think more and more about how its populations can gain access to quality health care.

From our point of view, the more motivation a society has for improving health care, the better. To judge by this new collaboration, the Peru model has all of the ingredients to surpass its goals and expectations.

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