The factor that makes Partners in Health that much more practical and effective than other programs is its comprehensive approach to world health issues. Many other programs are able to provide only one part of the complex care needed to heal and keep healthy those who are at risk in the developing world. PIH seeks to strike at the source of most health problems in the third world, poverty, by providing necessary medicine, housing, food, and community support.
PIH strives to provide health and social justice for the poor: collected data, and practical thinking, can easily link bad living conditions to a weaker immune system, a heightened susceptibility to illness, and an inability to heal. There are 850 million in the world who chronically do not have enough to eat, and 6 million children die each year from malnutrition; this is totally unwarranted, as the world currently produces food in excess to feed all those who currently go hungry.
Furthermore, this lack of food and the weakened immune system that follows it lead to a cycle of deprivation: patients with diseases such as HIV need twenty to thirty percent more calories daily than others of the same age, gender, and energy use who do not suffer from a disease. However, they often arrive in that situation by being unable to provide that minimum caloric requirement. Thus, by providing an improved level of nutrition to all under their programs, PIH addresses both the source and symptoms of many health issues.
This is only one example of PIH's constant battle against unnecessary inequality. Another such amenity, often taken for granted by those lucky enough to possess it but a source of endless strife for those who do not, is a steady supply of clean water. Clean water is certainly a basic necessity for living a healthy life, and could even be considered a basic human right; however, there are approximately 1.1 billion people who do not have access to clean water, almost all of which live in developing countries.
A similar factor as hunger in health, clean water can be the cure and prevention of many diseases plaguing the third world. Diarrhea is the leading cause of death of children under five in developing countries, and yet the availability of clean water can reduce that rate by thirty to fifty percent. This reduction is even greater for water-borne epidemics like typhoid and cholera. In fact, when all is said and done, $1 spent on clean water yields $3-4 saved in medical costs. Research has shown that by providing a sanitary water source to half of those currently without clean water would say 1 million children from preventable death within 10 years, and reap an annual financial benefit of $38 billion. PIH therefore seeks to achieve this goal one village at a time, and has so far succeeded in constructing and bettering more than a dozen water networks in Haiti.
These issues and others are responsible for an increased instance of disease and death; small privileges which to most in modern society seem inconsequential and basic, lead to completely preventable risks for those that endure without them. Key among these issues is housing--overcrowded, unsanitary living conditions transform a home into a breeding ground for disease. PIH contends that a safe, sturdy home is a basic right for all families, and has succeeded in constructing concrete-and-tin houses for more than 250 families so far. As always, the strides taken are slow and meticulous, but together cover a great distance.