Skoll Foundation


Partners in Health

Skoll Awardee(s): Dr. Paul Farmer
Award Year: 2008
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Health

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 “By successfully delivering quality medical care to those most in need, Partners in Health demonstrates that allegedly intractable health problems can be addressed effectively.”

Despite advances in medicine and health care in recent decades, access to quality care remains a luxury reserved for the rich in many countries and communities, rather than a fundamental human right.

The Skoll Awardee: As a young man, Paul Farmer picked citrus fruit in Florida, learning firsthand about the conditions Haitian migrant laborers endured. He traveled to Haiti just before entering medical school. Observing the misery of life for the poor, he decided to act, taking to heart Rudolf Virchow’s injunction that “physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor.” He founded PIH and started work in Haiti in 1987. Paul set out to prove that cost-effective, high-quality health care could be delivered in the most challenging contexts, through an innovative model of care in which local health workers accompany patients through their treatment, delivering services to patients in their homes, addressing needs for food, housing and safe water, and empowering community members to take charge of their health. Success in Haiti attracted attention from the global health community and influenced policies of the World Health Organization for treating multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Paul forged an academic and medical discipline around the concept of global health equity, creating the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at a leading teaching hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In 1997 he created the Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change at Harvard Medical School, and developed the Institute for Health and Social Justice, an advocacy and teaching branch of PIH. In the year of the Skoll Award, PIH was replicating its program in Lesotho, Malawi, Peru, Rwanda, Russia, and the United States, recorded more than 2 million patient visits, and was successfully treating 12,758 HIV patients with antiretroviral therapy.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2008:

  • Expanded service delivery to provide lifesaving medical care to 2.4 million people in 11 countries by 2014, employing 2,422 medical staff and 8,301 health workers.
  • Provides training materials and technical support to numerous health programs practicing the model worldwide.
  • Priority programs have developed and demonstrated approaches to cancer and chronic disease, cholera, HIV/AIDS, surgery, women’t and children’s health, community health workers, mental health, and TB.
  • Operates hospitals and health facilities including teaching hospitals in Haiti, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Malawi.
  • Partnered with other organizations and WHO to train workers and establish facilities to treat Ebola.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.