An American pre-medical student explores Universal Health Coverage…

Oct. 6, 2014

This is a guest post by Moriah Pollock-Hawthorne, Haverford University.

I was an intern at NICE International and an American university student with aspirations to become a doctor. In an effort to learn about universal health coverage and experience a single-payer healthcare system in action, I came to England; I shadowed doctors in NHS clinics, sat in on technology appraisal meetings where I discovered NICE’s role in ensuring affordability and standards of care for medicine in the NHS, and then had a brief internship in which I learned how NICE International applies the experience of NICE and the NHS to help other countries develop principles, priorities, and guidelines as these countries begin to create or expand their own healthcare systems.

During my internship with NICE International I had the privilege to attend the Steering Group and Country Selection meeting for the international Decision Support Initiative [iDSI]. During this meeting I sat around a table surrounded by incredible people who work for exceptional organizations in the fields of global health funding, health policy, and health economics. I listened intently as they discussed the best way to aid low and middle income countries in the establishment of priorities and guidelines for good quality healthcare, and debated which country (or countries) they should choose for iDSI’s first practical support project.

Some of the technical details of the conversation were beyond my grasp as I have little experience with health economics or policy, but I thought that the meeting was fascinating. At the end of the meeting, I walked away with a greater understanding of how organizations like NICE International, HITAP, the Center for Global Development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, UK’s Department of International Development, and the Rockefeller Foundation hope to influence the health policy of developing countries in an effort to ensure that these countries have the necessary tools and skills to be able to provide their citizens with the most affordable and best quality healthcare possible.

As my internship came to a close, I realized just how much I learned, not only about how the NHS operates but also how its principles are being used to help countries around the world. One of the experiences that struck me most during my time here was the reactions of utter surprise and shock I received from the British people when I said to them, “You are so lucky to have the NHS! In the United States, many people experience constant worry and stress that they will not be able to afford the medical attention they need to maintain their health.” To them, having a healthcare system that covers everyone seemed like a given. Overall, my internship has made me realize how much the American people would benefit if the US healthcare system was restructured using the NHS and the work of NICE International, particularly the principles behind iDSI, as models. Personally, as I doctor I know that I would want to work within a healthcare system that allows me to help all people in need of medical attention, regardless of how much money they can pay.