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What Impact Has COVID-19 Had On Global Nonprofits?

The global scope of the pandemic is unreal, and no one understands that more than the NPOs committed to providing healthcare around the world. Hear how you can make a difference from Michael O’Neal from One World Health.

Transcript

Tim Maurer:
Hello, I’m Tim Maurer, welcoming you to another episode of Ask Buckingham, a new video podcast designed to bring clarity in the midst of confusion by connecting your great personal finance questions with straightforward answers from industry-thought leaders. Today’s questions will be answered by Michael O’Neal, the executive director of OneWorld Health, a global nonprofit that partners with communities in developing countries to bring permanent sustainable healthcare to the chronically underserved.

Tim Maurer:
And if you’re wondering why we’re having this conversation today, it’s because we as advisors have the privilege of working with people of needs quite frankly. Now, many of them are still struggling through this challenging time in the midst of COVID-19, but some of them have inspired us with the actions they have taken to help those who are most in need. That’s the reason that we wanted to talk to Michael today. Michael, thank you so much for joining us. What does OneWorld Health do and where does it do it?

Michael O’Neal:
Yeah, first of all, Tim, thanks a ton for having me. Really honored to be a part of this. And I’m excited to have a conversation with you today. So OneWorld Health exists to provide quality affordable care to communities in need. And really we work into primary regions around the globe. We work in East Africa and Central America, and our goal from day one was to set up something in the developing world context from a healthcare delivery standpoint that went beyond relief-based care.

Michael O’Neal:
So we work on the chassis or on the foundation of a operationally sustainable model, meaning that we actually generate revenue from services that we render in the communities where we serve across the globe; Uganda, Nicaragua, Honduras, we’ve worked in Burundi in the past. We’re doing some work with a refugee population in Costa Rica over the past couple of years. And the whole goal is that we work in and with the community that we serve. And so, as opposed to just being kind of the West coming in as saviors and fixing everything, the idea is that we come in and create platforms and longterm/sustainable healthcare solutions for these communities.

Tim Maurer:
So you mentioned relief care. Could you differentiate for us the difference between say relief care and the type of medical care that most of us as Americans are used to?

Michael O’Neal:
Yes, relief-based care is really based on immediate needs. And so there’s obviously tons of need across the globe. And there are a lot of statistics we could get into to show that, but… And it’s very simple as form. Relief-based care is based on a very needy population needing healthcare, they don’t have means, or they’re perceived to not have means to contribute to that healthcare. So a lot of times what happens is more developed countries send medical practitioners into these developing countries, provide care for folks at no cost, and then they leave. Now, the first thing I’ll say to him is like, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s awesome. People need care and they’re giving them care. And that’s great. For those people that they’re treating during that week or two weeks that they’re on the ground serving, it’s incredible.

Michael O’Neal:
But what we’ve said is there’s a time that you need… There are certain countries and contexts and economics stability and political stability warrant that we have to transition out of relief-based care into some type of sustainable long term healthcare solution. To solve the world’s problems in healthcare, we can’t send people from the U.S. And the UK to developing countries every day of the year and meet the needs that they have, number one. Number two, they’re incredibly talented people on the ground that we want to create a platform for empowerment for them. Great clinicians, doctors, nurses, lab techs, all kinds of folks, administrators, that we want to give a space and a place for them to belong and give them access to the resources they need to treat their community. And so that’s kind of been our goal

Tim Maurer:
Now is the tried and true metaphor of say someone who is hungry, you can give them a fish or you can teach them how to fish, does that apply at all in this scenario? Are you guys trying to teach the community how to fish, as it were, to teach the community how to care for itself better from a medical perspective?

Michael O’Neal:
So there’s a ton of public health education that goes into what we do, for sure. I think where I would apply that metaphor would be more in that we’re already identifying doctors in country that are trained in Uganda or in Nicaragua and Honduras, wherever it might be. And that as I referenced earlier, they’re incredibly brilliant people. They might not have the specialty training conditions and the U.S. have. And so we work with them to build out their professional capacity. Our average clinician across the globe receives 72 hours of continuing medical education every year, and a lot of that happens from platforms of our partnerships with medical providers here in the U.S. That we’ve aligned and created partnerships with our providers and in developing world countries or developing countries across the world. Right? And so not only are we identifying the best and the brightest, but giving them opportunities to grow in their professional capacity as well.

Tim Maurer:
Awesome. So talk to us a little bit about what the state of affairs was for OneWorld Health prior to COVID-19.

Michael O’Neal:
Yeah, it seems like an eternity, doesn’t it?

Tim Maurer:
It does.

Michael O’Neal:
But prior to COVID we… So we currently operate 11 permanent facilities in East Africa and Central America. We have one mobile medical unit. We employ a little over 200 employees across the globe and provide care to over 100,000 patients on an annual basis. And so there’s a ton of growth for us. To kind of frame that up for you, we started the organization 10 years ago, opened our first permanent facility nine years ago. The first month we were open in January of 2011, we saw 240 patients that month. And now we’re seeing 10,000 plus patients on a monthly basis, which is-

Tim Maurer:
Wow.

Michael O’Neal:
Which is just wow to see that growth. And so I’d say prior to COVID, we were still in that growth mode. We had six new projects on the docket, various phases of implementation that we were working on. Some of those projects were capital improvements or expansions to current facilities and four of them were new facilities that we were in the process of building out. And so we were pedal to the metal, so to speak. We were full fledge in scaling up mode, entering in to new countries and new communities to provide care to the folks that we love so deeply around the globe.

Tim Maurer:
All right. Well, now we are in the midst of the COVID-19 era and it has. It’s changed everything for all of us. How has it impacted OneWorld Health and the community that you guys are serving?

Michael O’Neal:
It’s been really interesting. So we obviously hit pause on all of that capital growth that I just mentioned and all of that scale and said, “Hey, what do we do to pivot during this time? What do we do to serve the needs of the community now that we’re here to serve, this is what we’re about. We’re about providing health care to people.” And there’s two things in our response to that. One is 100%. We have to prepare and understand what it means for us to respond to the COVID pandemic. And so how do we work with our partners on the ground? How do we work with the Ministry of Health in the countries where we’re serving to make sure we’re part of that regional response and country response to the pandemic, that inevitably is going to have a dire impact on the communities and the populations that we serve?

Michael O’Neal:
And so there’s a lot of things that we did in that. And you got, for instance, we converted a PT, OT space into an isolation ward. And so 32 new beds specifically designed to support COVID patients and do what we can as that pandemic takes root in that country. In places like Nicaragua, we changed patient flow. Right? And so in the U.S., if anybody’s been to an urgent care facility, you recognize that how you interact with staff in urgent care and your primary care and the ER, anywhere, has drastically changed. And so we made changes and adjustments to ensure patients’ safety, right, as it relates to COVID-19.

Michael O’Neal:
The other thing, and I’ve been saying this for the past eight weeks, since this is really kind of taking root across the globe, is that the battle that we fight day in, day out has not changed. In other words, malaria, which is a huge issue in Uganda has not changed. Rainy season started a few weeks ago there. Malaria is still an issue that kills a lot of people every single day, every single week. And we’ve got to continue to provide that care than needed and salient care to the communities that we serve day in, day out. And so we’ve gotten innovative on that. As I said, we’ve had a big pivot in what we’ve done and how we’ve tried to innovate and respond to the needs of our patients. And so we, three weeks ago, rolled out a telehealth platform in all three countries where we’re currently serving, so Nicaragua, Honduras, and Uganda. We’ve coupled that with a COVID screening tool that’s online or via telephone with our practitioners, so that folks can talk to a local Nicaraguan doctor if they have concerns about COVID.

Michael O’Neal:
We can walk them through this algorithm that way we have, and try to determine what their next steps need to be. Or if they’re concerned about a GI illness that their child has, or an ear infection that one of their kids has, there’s an opportunity and a safe way for them to have a consult with one of our clinicians in country and try to understand what their next steps need to be. Do they need to get out and come through the facility, putting themselves and possibly more of the population at risk of transmitting COVID or is this something that we can deal with at home? And so we’ve been able to do that and then mobilize a motorcycle delivery program in all these countries where we can deliver prescriptions to people’s homes and do that in a really affordable and accessible way for the population that we’re serving.

Tim Maurer:
Wow. And I’m curious, we’re hyper-focused on the way that COVID-19 is impacting us in our zip codes, in our states, in our countries. What is the impact of COVID-19 been to date in the countries that you’re serving like Uganda, Nicaraguan, Honduras?

Michael O’Neal:
Yeah. So three drastically different impacts, but just kind of from a high level, I’ll say this. All countries are really being impacted. And some of the biggest impact is happening on the economic side of things. We brought the economy suffering here in the United States, it’s certainly is. I don’t want to minimize that at all. There are people that are in very precarious situations right now. There’s a lot of families in our country domestically that are really, really struggling and how I would encourage anybody listening to this to be a part of a solution for that in any way you possibly can. Figure out a way to help your neighbor, figure out a way to help somebody in your town, in your city and in your state, whatever it might be, because there’s people that are really hurting here. That impact what that means in a developing world country when people are living paycheck to paycheck, but literally living day to day has been detrimental.

Michael O’Neal:
And we’ve already seen effects from that. We’ve seen folks like development economists from Kings College of London, a guy named Andy Sumner is really well respected. And this has come out just in the past few days with some data and with a paper that thinks that this has put a reversal of 10 to 30 years on the developing world in terms of an economic standpoint. So the first time since 1990, there is a prediction that we are going to see an increase in poverty around the world, which is nuts. You know, it could be up to 420 to over 550 million more people will slide under that international poverty mark as a result of the economic impact of COVID around the globe. And so these three countries that we’re working in have responded differently in terms of public health, but one thing that certainly has tied it all together has been the drastic economic impact that’s happened for folks that are just trying to live day to day.

Tim Maurer:
Well, we’re thrilled to hear that the work goes on and that this is that time where you guys can really dig in and help the communities that you have chosen to serve. But I’ve got to think you guys could use some help now, too. Are you struggling seeing a reduction in the contributions that people make? I know that you guys would often take trips to these areas to serve and get people engaged in the U.S., I imagine that’s been a challenge for you.

Michael O’Neal:
It has. So on the volunteer side, we’ve shut everything down through July. Now, our next scheduled trip was October and spoiler alert, we’re really confident that it’s going to be shut down as well. And then we Tim, so I’d say it’s both. Right? So I would say, have we taken it on the chin from a contribution in revenue side of things? Yes, in that we’ve had to cancel our biggest fundraiser of the year, and it was supposed to be a couple of weeks ago, and there are three others kind of small fundraisers that we’ve had to postpone and/or cancel as well, revenue that we generate from those trips, as you referenced, has gone to zero. At the same time, I want to be transparent and say, there are people stepping up to the plate right now in a really unique way, in a way that is incredibly humbling for us and super, super encouraging folks, corporate partners, individual philanthropists, that are saying, “Hey, it’s this time very specifically that I want to respond with my finances. It’s this time I going to respond with my resources, knowing that healthcare has never been needed any more than it’s needed right now.”

Michael O’Neal:
And these populations that were already on the brink of survival, so to speak, or their economies were incredibly fragile, their healthcare systems were incredibly fragile, economy is falling off the cliff even more, healthcare systems are being overburdened even more than they were before. And so there are folks that have come along beside us in very real and substantial ways just to support our response. And we’re grateful for that. The constant message to our team across the world for this has been, “Hey, we’re not running away from this thing. We’re going to use every resource that we have, financial capacity, partnership capacity, our network of relationships to dive into this and run towards it.”

Michael O’Neal:
And so I could not be more of our staff, I can not be more proud of the folks that serve beside us day in, day out, that are literally putting their lives on the line, the same as our healthcare heroes here in the States that we’ve got folks at public transportation is shut down, private transportation is shut down and you got into right now, and they’re walking like miles and miles and miles every day to be on work, to be at work on time, to put their lives at risk, to serve a population that needs it. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that.

Tim Maurer:
Well, we’re proud to have you share that story and thankful for it. So often I think it’s easy to get in our own heads. There’s not a person in the world right now who isn’t impacted by this thing, and we’re having legitimate struggles of our own here in the States, but to put this in perspective and think about the impact that it’s having on others around the world, who are in even greater need, I think is helpful for us to know, Michael. So thank you so much for sharing that.

Michael O’Neal:
Thanks, man.

Tim Maurer:
I’ve always counseled folks as a financial advisor, that there are three big benefits to partnering with entities like OneWorld Health. The first is that we feel better about ourselves. Apparently, we’re wired to help others because our body rewards us with a rush of endorphins when we do. Second, when we give to anyone whose financial needs are greater than our own, we tend to feel more content with what we do have and focus less on what we don’t have.

Tim Maurer:
And depending on your financial situation, thirdly, we may receive a tax break for partnering with an entity like OneWorld Health. But of course you should always check with your CPA first.

Tim Maurer:
Thank you for tuning into this special episode of Ask Buckingham. If you’d like to learn more about OneWorld Health, you can do so on their website at www.oneworldhealth.com. If you have a personal finance question that you’d like to see us address, you can do so by navigating to the website, askbuckingham.com or by emailing your question to question@askbuckingham.com or just click in the upper corner of your screen, it’ll take you directly to the website. Remember that there are no dumb questions, but unfortunately there are plenty of really bad answers out there. Our hope is that in giving you straight answers to your questions, it will bring a sense of calm and allow you to apply what you’ve learned in pursuit of good decision making. So please, follow us and by all means, Ask Buckingham.

 

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Meet your guests.

Tom Bodin
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Vince Crivello
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Aaron Grey
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Director of Planning Integration

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Kevin Grogan
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Managing Director, Investment Strategy

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Jared Hoffman
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Blerina Hysi
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Mike Kenneally
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Jared Kizer, CFA
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Jeffrey Levine
Jeffrey Levine
Director of Advanced Planning

As Director of Advanced Planning, Jeffrey serves as a technical resource for advisors and the firm’s primary thought leader regarding evidence-based planning concepts and strategies.

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Michael O'Neal
Executive Director at OneWorld Health

Michael is the executive director of the global nonprofit One World Health, which partners with communities in developing countries to bring permanent, sustainable healthcare to the chronically underserved.

Irv Rothenberg
Irv Rothenberg
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Jonathan Scheid
Jonathan Scheid, CFA, AIF
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Meir Statman
Meir Statman, PhD
Research Advisor

Meir Statman is the Glenn Klimek Professor of Finance at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University. His research focuses on how investors and money managers make financial decisions and how these decisions are reflected in financial markets.

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Larry Swedroe
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