Health Education Alliance for Liberia (HEAL) is a consortium that includes six universities dedicated to improving pediatric health in Liberia.

As Liberia strives to overcome 14 years of civil war, national leaders face the difficult task of rebuilding a devastated healthcare system. Liberia’s child mortality rate is the 5th worst in the world, with nearly 1 in 4 children dying by age 5. The vast majority of these deaths are a result of preventable conditions, such as malaria, acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, and malnutrition. In the late 1980s, there were an estimated 500 Liberian physicians for 3 million people. Today, however, only about 50 physicians remain—and tragically, the country does not have a single fully trained pediatrician.

The mission of the Global Health Innovation Laboratory’s Health Education Alliance for Liberia (HEAL) Pediatrics Program is to assist the Liberian Government improve child health in Liberia by building local capacity to delivery high-quality pediatric care. HEAL is a consortium that includes several universities dedicated to improving pediatric health in Liberia. HEAL has included faculty team members from Mass General, Children’s Hospital-Boston, UMass, Boston Medical Center, University College of London, Tufts New England Medical Center, the Fetal Medicine Foundation (London), and the University of Washington.

Dr. Brett Nelson, a Mass General Global Health Innovation Laboratory & Human Rights Fellow, is currently serving as the acting pediatrician-in-chief of the country’s university teaching hospital—John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFK Medical Center), in Monrovia, the capital. Dr. Nelson and his pediatric colleagues—pediatricians from leading medical centers throughout the United States—provide a variety of ongoing clinical and training services to the JFK Medical Center. HEAL has been instrumental in the development of the country’s first and only pediatrics special care unit, and the initiation of a newborn task force.

HEAL Pediatrics’ current efforts at JFK Medical Center comprise several types of activity:

  • Increasing clinical capacity through formal training curricula in pediatric care for Liberian physicians-in-training, nurses, and other medical support staff
  • Improving clinical care through year-round clinical supervision and bedside teaching
  • Establishing evidence-based treatment guidelines and needs-based research
To date, in addition to providing pediatric coverage at JFK Medical Center, the HEAL Pediatrics program has accomplished the following:
  • Development of a pediatric task force and newborn task force at JFKMC
  • Development of daily pediatric training curriculum for Liberian residents and physicians in training, weekly lectures for PA students, third-year medical students, multiple in-service trainings for midwives and nurses, and daily clinical teaching rounds in pediatric- and newborn departments
  • Donation and delivery of over $200,000 in medical equipment and supplies to Liberia (e.g., portable ultrasounds, IV infusion pumps, ICU monitor, pulse-oximetry monitors, trainee reference books, training equipment)
In 2009, we added the following activities in Liberia:
  • Providing training in newborn resuscitation and care at 8 district hospitals in Liberia, in conjunction with the IRC, Merlin, Medecins Du Monde, and Medical Teams International
  • Providing training for Liberian clinicians in obstetric ultrasonography, in conjunction with the Fetal Medicine Foundation (London)
  • Collaborating with the Mass General Division of International Psychiatry on development of a national mental health policy