Breaking the ‘tribal culture’ in healthcare

To meet the needs of a global society, healthcare professionals must join forces in new ways, according to Richard Horton, editor of the internationally renowned medical journal The Lancet, who delivered a lecture titled “A Bonfire of the Professions: Prospects for Global Health” at Penn’s School of Nursing on Nov. 9.

“We are living through a health crisis in the majority of the world today,” Horton said. With child survival, maternal health, and the infectious diseases malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS still rampant in parts of the world that are the poorest and have the fewest healthcare resources, he said, “the current status quo simply cannot continue.”

Horton reinforced the need for a patient-centered “revolution” in healthcare, which The Lancet advocated in a landmark 2010 report co-authored by Penn Nursing Dean Afaf I. Meleis and international colleagues.  The report advocated that “all health professionals in all countries should be educated to mobilize knowledge and to engage in critical reasoning and ethical conduct so that they are competent to participate in patient- and population-centered health systems as members of locally responsive and globally connected teams.”

During his lecture, Horton proposed that Penn join The Lancet in a commission that would examine a new approach to reach this vision. He called for “transprofessionalism,” uniting nurses, midwives, community health workers, and doctors to address global needs and inequities in healthcare today.

There is no better partner than Penn for this work, Horton said. “You have a remarkable institution at Penn, an institution like no other I have been at. ... I’ve never seen the collaborative spirit that I’ve seen here between different professions in health. It is truly unique what you have,” he said. “It’s actually the work that you do together that I can see defines you as something very, very special.”

Originally published on November 10, 2011