Management: the secret weapon to fight malaria

“I firmly believe that health is a human right and that everyone in any part of the world deserves adequate access to health services.” Mitra Feldman (Global MBA 2014) is a specialist in public health who has dedicated the past decade to fighting malaria through different programs in Africa and Southeast Asia.

“It’s the most important health matter in the world and causes more deaths in children under five years of age than other diseases. Besides, it’s curable and preventable, which makes it’s even more important to treat it on a global scale,” says this IE alumna, who has an MSc in Control of Infectious Diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Feldman has worked for several international NGOs and State organizations. Her first important post was in Liberia, a country then devastated by a 14-year-long civil war. She coordinated 14 primary health-care clinics that treated some 350,000 persons, with a focus on sexual and reproductive health. Later she worked in Uganda and Zambia and carried out actions against malaria in five countries. As an independent consultant, she has worked in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. She has also participated in a program by the US Department of Defense to encourage cooperation between civilians and the military in eradicating malaria in Southeast Asia.

“From a health point of view, the epidemiology of malaria is very different in Africa and Southeast Asia. In many African countries malaria is still the principal cause of death. In Southeast Asia it’s no longer considered a health threat. Many countries there are on the verge of eliminating it,” Feldman explains. In this sense, her work on the Asian continent is a great challenge. “Governments and donors tend to reduce the resources. Historically, the resurgence of malaria has been linked to a reduction in funds. In this context, it’s fundamental to be able to maintain what has already been achieved,” she adds.

Combating malaria requires great organizational capacities because the large pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to invest in R+D in the developing countries. “Research is carried out by government organizations and NGOs, and the resources are limited,” explains Feldman. “That’s why it’s essential that they be well administered. It’s vital to know the best management practices. Then you can not only demonstrate to donors that you can maximize resources, but governments can be encouraged to increasing funding.”

For this specialist, research and management must go hand in hand. “With good management systems it’s more likely that the results of research will have a political influence and a positive impact, and that it won’t just be an academic exercise that may be very interesting but isn’t very useful in the real world,” she adds.

The mother of two children, Feldman currently lives in Thailand. “The MBA from IE Business School has had a great influence on my self-esteem and has been very useful when speaking in public and reducing my ‘impostor syndrome. “It also gives me more authority when I answer the offers from consulting firms,” she says.

By Valeria Saccone

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