Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Program in Public Health

Access to Health: Ethiopia

The Access to Health Project is an interdisciplinary health and human rights project in which students and faculty from Northwestern Law School's Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) and Northwestern Medicine's Center for Global Health work with a community in the developing world to assess the public health needs of that community, and to design an appropriate, sustainable intervention. In 2012, the Access to Health Project has focused on the community of Bonga, Ethiopia, and students traveled to Bonga in March 2012.

The Access to Health project sent an interdisciplinary team comprised of faculty and graduate students from Northwestern University (Feinberg School of Medicine and the Law School) to identify potential gaps in health care service delivery. Due to a variety of factors, including previous relationships and contacts with the community, the town of Bonga (located ~4 hours SW of Jimma) was designated as the geographical area in which to launch the Access to Health project. Partnering with Peace Corps, the Northwestern team traveled to Bonga (September 2011 and March 2012) to meet with the local health administration to establish a partnership and to conduct a needs assessment to determine the focus of the project. Based on the findings and the input from the Bonga community and health administration team, the group identified the need to improve obstetric care in the community. The Access to Health team mobilized a group of physicians and residents to conduct an Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics training (developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians) for health care workers in October 2012. This trip included two week-long trainings in Jimma and Bonga as well as procurement and distribution of six mannequins and other educational materials to be given to the hospitals.

Access to Health will continue to monitor and evaluate this program and ensure that current and future interventions remain appropriate and sustainable.


Representatives from FSM’s Center for Global Health and FSM’s Department of Family and Community Medicine traveled to Ethiopia in September, 2011. During this visit, the team met with the Minister of Health, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the Dean of the College of Public Health and Medical Sciences to introduce Northwestern proposed programs and to discuss possible collaborations. Both the Minister and the Dean stated that one of the main health priorities would be to address the extremely high maternal morbidity and mortality rates. Data from UNICEF (2008) report the maternal mortality rate in Ethiopia is 470/100,000 vs. 24/100,000 in the United States. In April, 2012, FSM was honored to host a meeting with the minister at CGH and to follow up on our previous discussions. Minister Tedros again emphasized interest for Northwestern University to partner with Jimma University and to establish a mutually beneficial partnership between the two institutions focusing on bilateral training and educational opportunities in the realm of global health. 

This article first appeared on the NU Center for Global Health website