Medtronic's Big Push to Improve Access to Care for Non-Communicable Diseases

Right at the busy intersection where Disease rubs shoulders with Public Health, Medtronic Philanthropy is doing somemething pretty interesting: undertaking public health assessments of communities and formulating plans to improve access to care for non-communicable diseases. The foundation's long-running Strengthening Health Systems program seems to be growing a robust new branch. This is HealthRise, and it will serve to recruit and train frontline health workers in underserved communities in Brazil, India, South Africa, and the United States.

In a way, it’s a sort of pilot program. Strengthening Health Systems has been working in these four countries for years, doing similar work, but this appears to be much more coordinated. With HealthRise, Medtronic will be partnering with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to help monitor and evaluate the projects, and with Abt Associates to organize the on-the-ground efforts within communities. In addition, HealthRise has a whole lot of money behind it: $17 million, over five years, to be exact.

All this comes in the wake of a World Health Assembly decree to cut premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by 25 percent by 2025, a call which many developing countries don’t have the resources to heed.

Medtronic is knowingly stepping into that gap, helping those suffering from diabetes and heart disease find access to quality health care. Often, half the battle is just the travel required to see a doctor. In addition to knocking down barriers to care, HealthRise is interested in raising awareness of disease symptoms, prevention, and educating patients about their local health system, so they can advocate for their own care.

It’s encouraging to see Medtronic getting back in the game. After giving 72 grants and several million dollars across its various healthcare grantmaking programs in 2012, it dropped off the map almost completely, giving a single $100,000 grant to the American Heart Association for its HeartRescue Program in 2013. Now it appears to be getting back into this grantspace, and that’s a good thing, because Medtronic is doing something few others are doing.

"We know that global change in healthcare access begins on the frontlines of villages, towns and cities all around the world," said Jacob A. Gayle, Ph.D., vice president, Medtronic Philanthropy. "We expect that, by convening experts and making resources more readily available, we will help fill a real need in the effort to strengthen health systems so that people at risk for, or living with a chronic disease, can live longer, higher-quality lives."