In 2011, Partners In Health launched Compañeros En Salud (PIH/CES), a sister organization that works with rural government clinics in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas—one of the most marginalized regions in the state—to improve staffing, supplies, and links with local communities.

In partnership with local health jurisdictions, PIH/CES revitalizes underperforming rural clinics, providing high-quality health care to vulnerable people who previously had no reliable health services. The program currently operates in six rural clinics and plans to expand to 10. By focusing on primary care, PIH/CES strives to improve health outcomes, as well as to decrease the impoverishing costs of seeking health care outside the community.

To improve staffing, PIH/CES recruits motivated Mexican physicians who are entering a required social service year to staff the rural clinics. In turn, PIH/CES transforms the social service year into a meaningful training experience. The physicians receive logistical support, monthly mentoring and training from PIH/CES staff and Brigham and Women’s Hospital residents, and participate in seminars created by Harvard Medical School and Tecnológico de Monterrey. This comprehensive support and training program helps build the next generation of social justice physicians in Mexico.

In order to ensure that clinicians have the tools they need to provide high-quality care, PIH/CES supplements medicines, diagnostic equipment, and supplies in its program clinics, using a system designed to forecast needs and avoid stock-outs.

PIH/CES also works to build strong relationships with community members. PIH/CES coordinates closely with village health committees, village assemblies, women’s groups, schools, and other institutions to set priorities and plan programs. In collaboration with volunteers, PIH/CES has also visited the homes of more than 5,000 people in order to identify those with risk factors or symptoms of diseases that frequently go undiagnosed, such as diabetes, hypertension, tuberculosis, and asthma.

The program is training community members to help link patients with chronic or serious illnesses to ongoing care. It is currently active in one community and will be expanded to all communities over the next 18 months.

By the numbers:

Total population: 4,796,580
Life expectancy at birth: 74
Child mortality: 16.7 per 1,000 live births
Adult prevalence of HIV: 0.3%
Population living below national poverty line: 51.3%