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Young child representing the vulnerable populations that the following community-driven solutions are working to help improve health outcomes.

Health: Preventable and Treatable Diseases

Community-driven solutions to address the health needs of vulnerable populations

Over the past 20 years, tremendous progress has been made in global health. Diseases such as malaria, diarrheal illness, pneumonia, and measles have decreased worldwide, as have rates of maternal and child mortality. However, there are still groups of people being left behind. These communities face the harshest barriers to accessing health services such as physical distance, cultural discrimination, and extreme poverty. They often live at the margins of society and outside of the formal healthcare system, such as in rural areas, urban slums, and indigenous and ethnic minority communities.

The most vulnerable members of these groups are women and children, who are more likely to suffer from preventable death and disease. In fact, an estimated 5.9 million children die each year from diseases that are relatively simple and inexpensive to prevent and treat. More than 300,000 women die from maternal complications. International development organizations, national and local governments, and academic researchers are engaged in efforts around the world to reduce preventable death and disease among these disadvantaged groups. Yet, philanthropic funding is also needed for the nonprofits that are directly reaching those most in need.

From rural villages in Malawi to crowded urban slums in Bangladesh, community-based health organizations are delivering interventions to underserved communities around the world. Though they may work in different parts of the world, the most successful organizations share the same core approaches: building trust with local leaders and gradually dismantling the geographic, economic, cultural, and behavioral barriers to health delivery. These organizations engage local communities to understand their unique health needs, and use science-based methods to prevent and treat health problems. Their work has been proven to accelerate better health outcomes in even the most challenging settings.

Organizations that use this community-based approach focus on a variety of evidence-based interventions that decades of research have shown to be effective at improving health and saving lives. They are also highly cost effective. Among the variety of interventions: oral rehydration solution for diarrheal diseases, insecticide-treated bed nets, deworming campaigns, breastfeeding, handwashing, and childhood vaccinations.

The organizations employ a number of strategies such as working with community health workers, launching home visitation programs, traveling in mobile clinics to access remote villages for vaccination campaigns, or creating women’s groups to motivate peers. These strategies are powerful investment tools with the potential to improve and even save millions of lives each year. What follows are examples of organizations around the world that are applying these strategies as part of a community-based approach.

This article was excerpted from the Center for High Impact Philanthropy's “2017 High Impact Giving Guide,” sponsored in part by Fidelity Charitable's Trustees' Initiative. The guide features specific high-impact giving opportunities, handpicked by the center and analyzed for evidence of impact and cost-effectiveness, as well as more ways to improve the effectiveness of your giving.

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy is a multidisciplinary, nonprofit center housed at the University of Pennsylvania. The center provides actionable and evidence-based guidance for individuals who want to ensure that their philanthropy makes the greatest possible difference in the lives of others.

Download the full report

Please note that this article does not represent all the organizations that address education. Fidelity Charitable does not endorse these organizations and provides this list for reference purposes only. All grant recommendations are subject to review and approval by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees.

1Curamericas Guatemala is a program of the 501(c)(3) public charity Curamericas Global.
2Hôpital Albert SchweitzerHaiti is also known as the Grant Foundation, INC.
3Jamkhed (CRHP) is an international charity that has an affiliated U.S.-based 501(c)(3) public charity that may be able to receive donor-recommended grants from a Fidelity Charitable Giving Account.
4The Society for Education, Action & Research in Community Health is not a 501(c)(3) public charity and cannot receive donor-recommended grants from a Fidelity Charitable Giving Account. However, the organization may be eligible to receive grant recommendations through an international intermediary program. Please contact Fidelity Charitable for more information.

Next area for high-impact giving: Poverty

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Opportunities to make an impact

In Latin America


Learn about Curamericas Global/Curamericas Guatemala and how effective it is.

In Asia


Learn about BRAC (Manoshi Project) and how effective it is.

In Africa


Learn about VillageReach (Kwitanda Community Health Project) and how effective it is.

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