I have had a wonderfully productive visit to Boston, including a side trip to Haiti where I learned more about how JSI puts together proposals to USAID. I was impressed by the teamwork led by Chuanpit Chua-Oon (Associate Director of the JSI Boston International Division) and by the way the team combined technical skills with creative approaches through brainstorming to meet the requirements of the RFP. It was a fascinating opportunity to learn about the Haitian health system needs and challenges, which are often so different from those we face in Russia but at the same time quite familiar, with issues of access, demand, and quality, for example.
The rest of the time I was here in Boston, which felt comfortably like home, but a bit more human-scaled and less crowded and polluted than Moscow, while also more stormy and windy!
It was particularly interesting to learn about the activities of JSI’s domestic division. So many of the topics are also very important and relevant in Russia. For example, tobacco use is a huge issue for us. The government puts a lot of effort into stopping tobacco use. In Russia, 60 percent of men and 30 percent of women smoke. The government has just issued new rules banning smoking indoors, and banning cigarette marketing. Now the main issue is how to enforce the rules and develop services to help people quit. JSI has done pioneering work in tobacco cessation and I picked up a number of ideas here that we can apply in our work in Russia.
Meanwhile, I’ve made some contacts that will be of use for future collaboration. We have a preliminary agreement with the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice to create a training course for the IHF staff – training to help my staff coach hospital staff on quality improvement. We are also making plans to have JSI people come back to Russia in the fall to train staff and work to further disseminate their ideas on health system strengthening and quality improvement.
Overall, it has been a highly productive eight weeks in Boston. I am grateful to Joel Lamstein (President of JSI), Ken Olivola (Director, JSI Boston International Group), Ann Keehn (Director of Operations, JSI Health Services Divison) and the rest of the JSI staff in Boston for helping IHF continue the important work initiated in Russia about 15 years ago.