Planning impactful disease prevention and treatment projects

By Nyreese Castro MD, MPH, CPH, Area of Focus Manager-Disease Prevention & Treatment, Maternal and Child Health

As we kick off Disease Prevention and Treatment month, I can’t help but take the time to reflect on the current state of fighting disease at Rotary and how our projects support The Rotary Foundation’s goals to prevent and treat disease and support health. Every day, Rotary members are working to promote programs that strengthen health care systems, limit the spread of communicable diseases, and reduce the incidence and effect of non-communicable diseases. This area of focus leads the charge in the number of grants implemented and the amount of funding used by Rotary members in communities across the world. These numbers have increased since the beginning of the pandemic as members continue to support local health systems in responding to COVID-19.

Our organization continues to emphasize impact which, in the health world, looks at policies, programs, and projects and both their long-term effects on the health of the population and the distribution of those effects within the population. To drive impact, there is a need to build stronger, more sustainable projects, driven by data and rooted in community need and sound health policy.

A successful and sustainable project begins with a community assessment. Community assessments identify where support is most needed and the role that Rotary members can play in making a difference. When conducting your assessment, remember to:

  • Include ministries of health, local health care providers, community health workers, community members, and members of the affected communities in the discussion.
  • Consult with members of the Cadre of Technical Advisers and Rotary Action Groups specializing in fighting disease – these members can be identified through your district’s resource network.
  • Allow community members to identify and prioritize their own health care goals and needs.
  • Collaborate with community-based organizations who are addressing similar health needs and explain how Rotary members can help them reach their goals.
  • Use local disease prevention and treatment guidelines whenever possible.

Sustainability requires an ongoing cycle of planning, implementation, and evaluation with a pause in between each step for reflection and adjustments. Our bottom line is to provide long-term solutions to community needs that the beneficiaries can maintain after project funding ends. Sustainability can be measured at different levels—at the individual level, the facility level, or the health systems level. The idea is to have continuous delivery and uptake of quality health services. It can also be measured by the longevity of independent projects led by Rotary members or how well the interventions and their outcomes become institutionalized in organizations or health systems. In time, we will see the impact that we are hoping for.

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