People-centred health systems, a bottom-up approach: where theory meets empery
BACKGROUND AND METHODS:
Health systems are complex and constantly adapt to changing demands. These complex-adaptive characteristics are rarely considered in the current bureaucratic top-down approaches to health system reforms aimed to constrain demand and expenditure growth. The economic focus fails to address the needs of patients, providers and communities, and ultimately results in declining effectiveness and efficiency of the health care system as well as the health of the wider community. A needs-focused complex-adaptive health system can be represented by the 'healthcare vortex' model; how to build a needs-focused complex-adaptive health system is illustrated by Eastern Deanery AIDS Relief Program approaches in the poor neighbourhoods of Nairobi, Kenya.
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS:
A small group of nurses and community health workers focused on the care of terminally ill HIV/AIDS patients. This work identified additional problems: tuberculosis (TB) was underdiagnosed and undertreated, a local TB-technician was trained to run a local lab, a courier services helped to reach all at need, collaboration with the Ministry of Health established local TB and HIV treatment programmes and philanthropists helped to supplement treatment with nutrition support. Maternal-to-child HIV-prevention and adolescent counselling services addressed additional needs. The 'theory of the healthcare vortex' indeed matches the 'empery of the real world experiences'. Locally developed and delivered adaptive, people-centred health systems, a bottom-up community and provider initiated approach, deliver highly effective and sustainable health care despite significant resource constraints.