This month I was one of 1,300 people who participated in the
Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, a conference organized in
Recife, Brazil under the patronage of the World Health Organization, the
Government of Brazil and the Pan American Health Organization. My job was to
speak on a panel preceding the conference, at the invitation of Johnson &
Johnson, about the contribution that business schools can make to strengthen
health systems in the developing world.
There is no doubt in my mind that business education can
contribute enormously to improving health systems, and not only in the
developing world. Recent research by a group of economists led by Nicholas
Bloom of Stanford University’s Department of Economics shows that better
management quality is associated with significantly lower mortality rates. In
another study, Management Sciences for Health, a US nonprofit organization, ran
a Leadership Development Program for teams of health professionals funded by
USAID. A comparison between these teams and groups that did not receive the
training shows pretty dramatic differences in outcomes. For the district-level
teams that received the training, the average coverage rate for health
indicators - such as fully immunized children under the age of one, women who
delivered with a skilled birth attendant, etc. - rose from 54% at baseline to 67% six months
after training. Comparison areas remained stable, with average coverage rates
I was very surprised to find that, to my knowledge, the
conference organizers hadn’t invited a single business school dean or faculty
to participate. Yet business schools, of which an increasing number are in the
developing world, are devoting considerable resources to educating health
professionals, either in-house or in partnership with schools of public health.
To illustrate, here are a few examples of what GBSN member
schools are doing:
- The Tuck School of Business offers joint MD/MBA and MPH/MBA
degrees with Dartmouth College.
- MIT Sloan’s Groundwork Initiative works with clinics,
hospitals, startups and non-profits to improve healthcare in Africa and Asia.
To date they have completed 50 projects for more than 40 host organizations.
Berkeley’s Haas School of Business
offers a MBA/MPH degree and an International Business Development program which
together prepare students for leadership roles in all aspects of healthcare in
emerging markets, particularly Latin America, Sub-Saharan
Africa and Asia.
- Nairobi’s Strathmore Business School offers a Healthcare Management MBA, whose participants include hospital and clinic managers, managers of NGOs and faith-based health providers.
- Last but not least, in September a group of African
institutions launched the African Institute for Healthcare Management, which
will pool faculty resources for advanced degree programs in East, West and
Southern Africa. Initial participants include Strathmore Business School,
Johannesburg’s University of
Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town.
There are many other examples, and so I can only hope that
global health organizations and funders, which are dominated by medical
professionals, will sooner rather than later bridge the gap that still
separates them from the world of business education.
Guy Pfeffermann is the Founder & CEO of the Global Business School Network.