GlaxoSmithKline Puts up Big Numbers for Health Worker Training in Africa

As West African countries continue to work on recovery efforts from last year’s Ebola outbreak, country governments, ministries of health, NGOs, and the private sector are pitching in to help those efforts, including pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The pharmaceutical giant recently announced a $9 million investment in health care training in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria.

GSK’s $9 million investment is spread out over the course of three years and supports health care training for over 9,000 workers located in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria. GSK is partnering with Amref Health Africa, the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign, and Save the Children to help carry out its health care worker training program which will focus on non-communicable disease management, and health care for mothers, children, and newborns. The program will also gather data that GSK and its partners hope will make a strong case to encourage increased public and private investments in the health care sector.  

GSK has been making health care systems investments for a handful of years now. In 2009, it pledged to reinvest at least 20 percent of its profits earned in developing countries, back into the health care systems and infrastructures of those countries. The company recently announced a $20 million partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to support a long-term HIV/AIDS research project. That investment will be doled out at around $4 million per year for five years.

GSKs $9 million investment, is just that—a business investment. According to Ramil Buren, Vice President for Africa and Developing Countries,

By investing in health infrastructure in developing economies, GSK can help to create a market and a demand for its products. You cannot just simply complain as a company that the infrastructure doesn’t exist and therefore there is no market. You have a role actually in creating that market. By working with community health care workers, we are creating an ecosystem that improves health outcomes and also increases demand in the system.

To repeat: This is an investment and not a grant. But we're flagging it in IP because it speaks to the bigger picture that the health care systems and infrastructure in countries like Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria were left in dire straits after the recent Ebola epidemic. (And weren't so great to begin with.) So whatever companies like GSK can do to not only improve those systems leading to improved health outcomes, while at the same time growing data to encourage increased investments in health care in poor countries, is a pretty good thing.