Research

We translate our lived experience serving the destitute sick into research that is broadly disseminated in the scholarly literature and at academic and scientific conferences and meetings around the world. And we translate our research into action to improve both our service in impoverished communities and our advocacy on behalf of health care and social justice for the poor.

Building on our affiliations with the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, PIH research explores how epidemic disease affects communities, how the distribution of wealth and power shapes the distribution and outcome of infectious disease, and how health and health care are related to human rights.

The clinical and social concerns that arise out of treating epidemic disease encourage us to delve into a widening range of issues and disciplines, from microbiology to macroeconomics and from epidemiology to anthropology. We conduct clinical research exploring side-effect management, optimal clinical regimens and improved diagnostics. We carry out outcomes research, such as measuring the results of MDR-TB treatment in a prison population in Russia. We undertake operational research projects designed to improve program performance, such as examining how adherence is enhanced through community-based care or assessing the need for flexibility in HIV/AIDS treatment protocols in order to account for the varying patterns of transmission among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. And we analyze issues that are often seen as extraneous to medical research, such as the effect of the U.S.-led aid moratorium on public health and human rights in Haiti.

First and foremost, however, PIH research examines the PIH model of care in order to improve our programs and distill evidence and examples that will help others learn from and build upon our experience.

Our research on the results of directly observed therapy for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in Russia and Peru helped overturn assumptions and policies that had denied treatment to patients in poor countries. When new guidelines for treatment of MDR-TB were released in 2006, the announcement cited "findings from a series of projects [that] have clearly demonstrated that multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis can be effectively treated in low-income countries and also provide a solid foundation for rapidly expanding TB control programs." Some of the most important findings came from PIH research.

Similarly, PIH research documenting the remarkable success of antiretroviral therapy in rural Haiti helped transform a sterile debate about whether treatment is possible in poor countries into a global commitment to provide universal access to treatment by the end of the decade. Our ongoing research agenda aims to have a comparable impact on thinking and action around issues such as the need to recognize hunger as a debilitating and often deadly medical condition and food as a key to preventing and treating infectious disease in poor communities.

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