Baylor College of Medicine News

Chevron, Baylor - Texas Children’s team up to improve health disparities in Colombia

Chevron, Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine have teamed up to improve health outcomes in La Guajira, Colombia.

Chevron, Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine have teamed up to improve health outcomes in La Guajira, Colombia, one of the country’s most impoverished states with a large indigenous community and high child and maternal mortality rates.  

This new initiative is part of a public-private partnership between Chevron, the central and departmental governments of Colombia, the state of La Guajira, and the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital (BIPAI.)

Although Colombia overall has improved its relative health and human development standings, there are still great disparities that persist in many regions such as La Guajira, a state in northern Colombia. Malnutrition and high adolescent pregnancy rates are rampant, along with tuberculosis, dengue and malaria.

Lack of resources for education, prevention and treatment of these diseases has magnified the problem in La Guajira. The mortality rate for children under the age of five in the state (50.46/1,000) is three times the Colombian national average.

"This agreement will help provide critical day-to-day pediatric and maternal healthcare to a vulnerable community while training local doctors to help build a legacy of greater health expertise,” said Ali Moshiri, president, Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company. “We value the opportunity to help improve the lives of children and their families in areas where we operate, contributing to create a better future.”

Called SAIL (Salud y Autosuficiencia Indígenas en La Guajira), the program aims to decrease high child and maternal morbidity and mortality rates.  The program is designed to complement and strengthen the existing healthcare system in La Guajira.

Texas Children’s Hospital Global Health Corps physicians will be stationed in La Guajira to lead the program, working closely with local healthcare professionals in public clinics and hospitals to address pediatric and family health needs through health professional training and direct patient care. 

Together, program leaders will implement integrated, locally driven solutions for health and productive development in five goals, including:

Access: expand availability and utilization of high-quality healthcare for children and families in the area. 

Capacity building: augment the ability of the local indigenous and non-indigenous communities and health systems to meet and sustain their healthcare capacity.

Surveillance: identify the highest prevalence diseases and the highest risk groups and individuals.

Prevention, identification and early intervention: implement frameworks that promote early identification of diseases and effective triage (the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounded or ill patients), prevent illness or start treatment early to lessen the burden of disease on individuals and society

Education: identification and treatment of specific pregnancy complications that increase maternal mortality and morbidity, such as hypertension and post-partum hemorrhage

Program management: accomplish the five goals above in an effective, efficient manner, measuring the impact of important interventions

Dedication ceremonies were held April 7 and 8 in Bogota and Riohacha, Colombia, respectively.

Leaders from Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital expressed their gratitude to Chevron for the support and their enthusiasm for working with Colombian officials.

Dr. Mark W. Kline, physician-in-chief at Texas Children’s and chair of pediatrics at Baylor, said, “We are grateful to Chevron and our partners in Colombia for this support, which allows BIPAI to expand its existing mission to improve the health and well-being of children and families globally.”

Dr. Michael Belfort, obstetrician/gynecologist-in-chief at the Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor, said, “The loss of a mother in childbirth is a tragedy that in most cases can be avoided with the presence of a skilled birth attendant. The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s training programs are aimed at achieving just that.”

Dr. James A. Thomas and Nancy Calles, R.N., will be co-directors of the program.

Thomas, professor of pediatrics at Baylor, said, "Our two societies – the U.S. and Colombia – are coming together to help the descendants of some of our ancestors who first populated North and South America. The Wayúu people, who populate Riohacha, face their greatest existential challenge in decades, with maternal and under-five mortality rates, malnutrition and disease burdens far above the Colombian national average. With Chevron's support and close cooperation with our Colombian partners, BIPAI has a unique and privileged opportunity to help La Guajirans begin transforming their healthcare system to find solutions to age-old, seemingly intractable challenges."

“We are extremely excited and proud to be working with Chevron and the country of Colombia to implement a program of education, care and treatment which will aim to decrease morbidity and mortality in the women of the Riohacha area,” said Calles, senior vice president of BIPAI.

This new agreement expands on Chevron, Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital’s existing partnerships to improve and increase access to healthcare in Liberia, Angola and Romania.