As Ebola hysteria dies down in the United States, the international community should not lose sight of a larger issue highlighted by the epidemic — the need to improve health care systems in the poorest African countries, writes Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Professor Richard Marlink in new commentary. He advises world leaders to take their cues from the U.S. government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program.

HSPH received a total of $362 million from the program for work in Botswana, Nigeria, and Tanzania that included training health care workers, developing monitoring and evaluation systems, strengthening health care infrastructures, and collaborating with local hospitals and clinics that provide treatment for AIDS patients. HSPH’s PEPFAR grants wound down in 2012, and researchers at the School worked with partner organizations to transition activities to full local ownership.

Marlink, who is Bruce A. Beal, Robert L. Beal, and Alexander S. Beal Professor of the Practice of Public Health, helped launch and run HSPH’s PEPFAR efforts in Botswana. In his commentary, published November 14, 2014 on GlobalPost, Marlink describes lessons learned from PEPFAR’s success: Focus on outcomes, establish local partnerships, and leave countries better equipped to deal with other health issues.

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