Fellow Since 1997
This profile was prepared when Néstor Mendieta was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1997.
The New Idea
With the recent passage of laws to privatize health care in Colombia, Néstor Mendieta is teaching local health care centers how to survive and benefit from this change. By providing training to link these centers with health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and insurance carriers, Néstor supports the capacity of existing organizations. Because everyone must have social and health insurance, Néstor is looking to assist people using the subsidized, and therefore usually of lower quality, insurance plan. Local health care centers learn the rules and regulations of HMOs and how to provide care under a privatized system. In each school, community health leaders learn to train others to develop and implement community health promotion and prevention projects. A local health committee is formed, which then works to develop its own projects and plans to improve health at the local level. Analyses consider local norms, traditional knowledge, and sociocultural differences, instead of being based solely on technology imported from abroad or from the cities. The communities and local health care centers then join together in a national network which identifies best practices and shares them with other communities. For example, in this network, the locale with the best policy for fighting infant diarrhea shares its experience with another community which boasts the most successful plan to reduce teen pregnancies. The combination of integrated health experiences, including ways to fight disease, improve infant nutrition, educate communities on sexual and gender issues, and ensure food security, yields an effective strategy for confronting health care issues.