rural Ecuador
Andean Health and Development (AHD) is a nonprofit that specializes in health care. It operates mainly in rural Ecuador, where barriers to health care are everywhere. Costs of travel into more populous areas where hospitals are typically located, the types of physical work that are common in rural communities and lower health literacy rates in rural Ecuador all have negative implications for human development.

What Andean Health and Development Does

Andean Health and Development (AHD) works to create health care system solutions that make care more accessible to rural Ecuadorians. AHD has built two hospitals in rural Ecuador that offer quality health care to those who cannot travel for health care. To make this approach sustainable, AHD has a rigorous three-year residency program that trains Ecuadorian doctors to become “the rural health care leaders of tomorrow.” This residency program has classes of up to 60 physicians who are hoping to focus their practice in the rural communities that need it. All of the staff at AHD health centers are Ecuadorian, which plays a key role in the success of this community-based approach.

As a nonprofit, Andean Health and Development also maintains relationships with local and international governments, global universities and donor relations to continuously expand its reach. AHD can operate its facilities through a mix of fundraising, patient payments where applicable, partnerships with public and private sectors and government funding. As capital grows, AHD shifts from simply operating its facilities to investing in its staff and covering costs for the poorest people. AHD’s partner organization, the Andean Health Institute, is the operational force that conducts its own research, lobbies for policies that increase access to care and monitors the work that Andean Health and Development is doing.

Why Andean Health and Development Matters for Rural Ecuador

Rural poverty is the result of poor infrastructure, poor access to quality resources like health care and education and fewer job opportunities.

AHD addresses all three of these systemic issues. Although Ecuador has universal health care coverage, access is the most significant challenge for rural citizens. By implementing nearly an entire supplemental health care system, AHD is not only providing health care to those who need it but is also creating a wealth of job opportunities for providers and other AHD staff. AHD creates a sustainable healthcare system that improves patient care as the business grows.

Andean Health and Development is providing care to more than 150,000 rural Ecuadorians while training hundreds of physicians and staff members each year. AHD is also one of the few rural health care providers in South America that successfully utilizes this approach to health care. Adopting a model of local community buy-in combined with capacity-building outside of the health center could be a model that poor or rural regions around the world that require access to health care can use.

 – Hannah Yonas
Photo: Wikipedia Commons