When an AIDS clinic at the University of Alabama wanted to boost the number of patients who returned for treatment, they didn't look to programs in the rich West for ideas. They went to Zambia, where strategies for treating patients with HIV have succeeded despite widespread poverty. With US health care costs through the roof, American doctors are increasingly looking to Africa for cost-effective medical practices, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Doctors say that if Americans can overcome the stigma of accepting less expensive treatments, solutions from developing nations could succeed here. "We're building Cadillacs, and they're offering us VW Beetles," says one skeptic, but a strategy pioneered in Haiti, using community health workers to do outreach to AIDS patients, cut medical expenses for a group of Boston patients by 40%. Low-cost technologies developed in the US are often not available here, the Journal adds, because they may be slightly less accurate. "In the developing world, people are willing to make the tradeoff in accuracy for simplicity and low cost," says a doc who works for Bill Clinton's foundation.