Haiti is a country located in the Caribbean, part of the western hemisphere; it shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. The population of Haiti is currently estimated at 11 million people. It is the poorest country of the Americas, with a gross national per capita income of US $662.00. Fifty percent of the population lives in the rural areas, mostly from subsistence agriculture and livestock. The other fifty percent lives in major urban centers, most of them in precarious conditions. Life expectancy is 61years-, which represents the lowest of the Caribbean region. These socioeconomic determinants contribute heavily to the current burden of life-threatening infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, endemic malaria, cholera. High rates of infant and maternal mortality represent significant challenges. Maternal mortality rate is at 530/100,000 live births and is one of the highest in the world. Non-communicable chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes are rising.
Recent major natural disasters such as the major earthquake of 2010 and a string of devastating hurricanes and flooding during the past decades have set back the economic progress of the country and the effort to improve the healthcare system.
The current Haitian health care system is in crisis. Most of the population does not have access to affordable quality primary health care. The country has an average of 6.5 health professionals for every 10,000 people, which is far below the minimum ratio of 25 per 10,000 recommended by the World Health Organization to meet the basic needs any population.
To promote medical education more relevant to people’s needs and improve the health status of the Haitian population, the Haiti Project started at the University of Miami 20 years ago in agreement with the State Medical School and the Ministry of Health of Haiti. The project is now under the umbrella of the organization Friends of Hopital Justinien.
For the past 19 years over 60,000 patients of all age groups have received comprehensive, continuous and compassionate care at the family practice center of Hopital Justinien. Over 70 family doctors have received formal family medicine training in this program. Eighty- per- cent have stayed in Haiti, some of them already working in leadership positions.
The Haiti Project was also involved in fighting cholera, building prostheses for the Earthquake victims and providing comprehensive medical care to HIV/AIDS patients. It has worked as a facilitator for various organizations aiming at helping different sectors of the Haitian healthcare system.
The project however faces major financial challenges due to our limited resources and a constant need for fund raising. External resources are indispensable to maintain the services to the community and the quality of the education provided.
The Haiti Project has built during the past 19 years a successful and productive partnership with Justinien University Hospital. Dr. Michel Dodard was the director of the Haiti Project at the University of Miami. He recently retired and is currently a professor emeritus in this institution. He is currently a board member and the executive director of The Friends of Hospital Justinien which has embraced this endeavor.Dr. Dodard oversees the activities of the project.
This organization “Friends of Hopital Justinien “ was created 4 years ago specifically to raise funds for the teaching programs ,improved clinical services , and purchase of medical equipment. This is being accomplished through professional networking, radio programs and direct appeals to the Haitian Diaspora. Friends of Justinien Hopital is a 501(c)(3) corporation, with a Board of Directors duly registered in Tallahassee, Florida. All funds given to the organization are tax deductible; Dr Dodard serves on the Board as the treasurer/Executive Director.