Primary author: Derrick Stratton

Paul Farmer
Paul Farmer is very famous in the public health realm. Dr. Farmer specializes in infectious diseases, as well as a medical anthropology. He is known worldwide for his work with countries with a lack of resources against AIDS and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (Hegyvary, 2004). Farmer is trying to reform healthcare around the world; he focuses most of his time and energy on the poorest countries and those with the fewest resources (National Public Radio, 2003). Along with fighting disease in poverty stricken countries such as Haiti, he is an author, public speaker, professor, chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard, chief of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and medical director of a hospital in Haiti (Harvard Medical School, 2010).

Paul Farmer was one of the co-founders of Partners in Health (PIH) back in 1987 (Partners in Health, 2010). PIH helped to establish a medical clinic in Haiti to treat everyone. One focus was on the prevalence and treatment of AIDS. Over 40% of everyone who walked in the door was HIV positive. The clinic provided treatments and medication to patients (Abraham, 2008). The hospital was able to achieve a 4% transmission rate of HIV from mothers to babies which is less than half of the U.S. rate of transmission (Kidder, 2003). Partners in Health have grown tremendously. They now have clinics that serve in treat in countries around the world such as Mexico, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Malawi, and Lesotho (Abraham, 2008). The hospital in Haiti, which PIH supports, sees as many people as do hospitals in the United States and have an operating budget of 1.5 million as opposed an operating budget of $60 million of a Massachusetts hospital (Kidder, 2003).

Dr. Farmer has also had great success in treating other diseases than AIDS. Some of the other great achievements come through his work with tuberculosis, and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. He has had a great success rate of treating tuberculosis at his facility Zanme Lasante in Haiti. He employs a method of treating the not only the patient but the circumstances that surround the patient. Some of these extended services include a community health worker to ensure patients take their medicine daily and a monthly stipend to cover food, care, and transportation to the clinic (Kidder, 2003). Using this form of treatment, he has been able to treat a patient for about $150-$200 instead of 100 times the cost to treat tuberculosis in the United States (Sachell, 2005). Farmer has not lost a patient in 12 years to tuberculosis (Kidder, 2003). His holistic approach to improving health also has improved the condition of those patients with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Partners in Health use his success as a protocol of care in over 30 other countries now based on his success in care. With combining the holistic care with a treatment regimen of over 7 different medicines achieved a cure rate of over 40% (Satchell, 2005).

Not only does Dr. Farmer have great clinical success, but he fights for change for the poor. In an interview, Paul Farmer said he believed that healthcare should be a human right and be free (Abraham, 2008). Farmer also believes in liberation theology; preferential treatment should be given to the poor (Kidder, 2003). In a 2007 interview, Farmer stated that despite reaching the poor people there are still many dispirited people and underfunded efforts. Farmer believes very strongly in some of the ideas behind PIH. In an interview stated that a strategy that focuses only on public health and medicine but neglects other influencing factors such as agriculture and clean water doesn’t suffice as being effective. Farmer also goes on to mention that the main focus of public health should be to make the advances of modern medicine and health available to the poor (Mullan, 2007). Paul Farmer has had a profound impact in public health through is work in Haiti and PIH and his method of treating more than just illnesses of the poor.

Dr. Paul Farmer has become a prominent figure in the public health realm. Dr. Farmer’s approaches such as holistic care and treating circumstances surrounding the patient shows the positive outcomes and methods at which health care policy should be aimed. He understands the true meaning of public health is more than just treating the sickness, but treating the person. Treating symptoms is a temporary fix; starting from scratch by looking at healthcare problems for the root cause, is the true way to build a firm foundation for public health. Dr. Farmer also empowers local people to help each other by providing them with jobs, education, and other resources. Dr. Farmer has been a real example through his approaches, methods of treatment, and his role as a public health care advocate for governments, policy makers, and all public health care workers to take note of. His approach to health care is a model to help alleviate some of the health disparities of global health care.

Abraham, C. (2008). Interview: Paul Farmer, medical hero. New Scientist, 199(2677), 46. Retrieved from MAS Ultra - School Edition database.

Havard Medical School. (2010). Paul Farmer. Retrieved October 27, 2010, from Department of Global Health and Social Medicine:

Hegyvary, S. (2004, 2004 3rd Quarter). Paul Farmer's Grand Challenges. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, pp. 187-188. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Kidder, T. (2003). Mountains Beyond Mountains. New York: Random House.

Mullan, F. (2007). Health, Equity, And Political Economy: A Conversation With Paul Farmer. Health Affairs, 26(4), 1062-1068. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.26.4.1062.

National Public Radio. (2003, October 20). The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer. Retrieved October 26, 2010, from National Public Radio:

Partners in Health. (2010). Partners in Health History. Retrieved October 26, 2010, from Partners in Health:

Satchell, M. (2005). WIPING OUT TB AND AIDS. (Cover story). U.S. News & World Report, 139(16), 60-62. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.