By Todd Cohen
RALEIGH, N.C. — Francesca Florey, the daughter of an American diplomat who worked for the U.S. Information Service, was born in Bolivia and raised in a number of developing countries, many of them in Latin America.
As a college student, when her father was stationed at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan, Florey spent a summer break working in the U.S. immigration office there, helping to process paperwork for refugees who had fled from Afghanistan after the Russians invaded the country.
“I was able to see first-hand from childhood the tremendous need there is in many of these countries and rural communities for basic and essential health services,” she says.
Now, after 26 years working on issues of international development and global health, most recently as director of global health and director of program management for research and innovation solutions at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill, Florey has joined Curamericas Global in Raleigh as executive director.
Founded in 1983 and operating with an annual budget of $1.7 million and staff of seven people in Raleigh and two overseas, Curamericas Global last year served 53,000 people living in 90 communities in three countries — Haiti, Liberia and Guatemala.
Its main focus has been working with local communities to identify and help address local health needs, particularly in the areas of prenatal and postnatal care.
Through its “community-based, impact-oriented” strategy, the agency sends its staff into rural communities where they meet with every household to understand the key health issues and threats they face, and then work with community leaders and educators to develop plans for supporting and improving health in their communities.
Those plans typically can involve developing educational programs, building local “capacity” to deliver health education and care, and creating systems of support and care for pregnant women and for safe delivery and post-natal care.
That often means working with traditional birth attendants or midwives who often are the only local health-care providers, Florey says.
Curamericas Global tries to partner with local partners.
“We want to engage them and empower them,” Florey says.
And its strategy is rooted in using programs based on evidence to show they work, and on metrics to gauge performance, and in a business model that focuses on helping local programs build the capacity to sustain themselves.
It has spun off and to continues to work with its offices in Bolivia and Guatemala, which now operate as locally owned and managed nongovernmental agencies.
“Curamericas has a deep, deep belief not only in creating measurable improvements in the health of communities we serve,” Florey says, “but also working to develop sustainability.”
To have a broader impact, Curamericas is working to participate in consortiums that focus on child survival.
It has a contract with the Centers for Disease Control, for example, to work with underserved communities on HIV/AIDS education and prevention.
“Our organization’s real vision,” Florey says, “is ending suffering in the world from treatable and preventable causes.”