People often talk about the food and water shortages in developing countries. But for some reason, worldwide access to medical care is an issue that’s not spoken about enough. No one should risk death because of a distribution problem in the medical industry but unfortunately this is the case. Everyone deserves access to lifesaving healthcare and it’s through companies like Mobile Schools Health that this is becoming a reality.
Everyone’s familiar with the ‘last mile’ problem in distribution. It’s easy to get a large amount of goods or data very close to the consumer but the last step of getting it precisely to their front door is often the longest and most expensive stage. Applied to the healthcare system, this relates to the billion people around the world who lack access to care due to the distance they live from a clinic. Despite the abundance of medical supplies and knowledge around the world, there are still so many who suffer for a lack of it. Those that suffer are largely those already living in extreme poverty in remote locations – i.e. those at the bottom of the pyramid.
There are several reasons why those in poverty find their health negatively affected. These range from indirect causes such as inadequate housing and insufficient money for gas and electricity to more direct causes such as poor access to communication and living over an hour’s walk to the nearest clinic. These are all important barriers to effective medical treatment which leave populations in a perpetual state of poverty.
One of the biggest drivers of the medical and poverty crisis is ‘interconnectedness’ at every stage in the healthcare journey. In the Western world we are used to critical information being readily available and medical records that are accessed in the blink of an eye. In some rural towns, these amenities are beyond imagination. They have limited access to medical devices and supplies; a lack of knowledge when it comes to implementing appropriate healthcare; and no infrastructure for transferring and inferring meaning from data. Today, interventions and services are not well designed or equipped to reach these unique environments. People like Melinda Gates are questioning why, if Coca-Cola can reach remote areas of the world, vaccines, medicines and other necessary services can’t also reach these places? As Raj Panjabi, CEO and Co-Founder of Last Mile Health puts it in an article by the World Economic Forum:
We live in an age of medical and technological miracles. Yet 6 million children still die each year for want of simple health solutions that cost less than a cup of coffee. This is a plague we have the power to prevent.
So, how are businesses like the inspirational Last Mile Health tackling this problem? It’s clear that this is a problem in some way related to distribution, but the solution is nuanced and requires several approaches. For a long time, remote communities were considered too difficult to reach and too expensive to serve. But here, at YSB, we have had the opportunity to work with companies that are changing the system and overcoming these issues.
At YSB, we are constantly fired up about health impact, and are very proud to have met the people behind such inspiring businesses. These people are taking on a daunting task and transforming the world’s understanding of what’s possible in healthcare, delivering and inspiring innovation by thinking outside the box. The innovations we got the pleasure to work with included a scheme to deliver preventative healthcare to school children in mobile buses and a scheme to establish micro-pharmacies in rural Africa. Our role at YSB was to help them improve the services they provide, align the forces necessary for significant change and scale their social impact.
VIA Global health is a startup reinventing the global healthcare supply chain. Their vision is to scale health innovation to the 6 billion people living in emerging economies. By leveraging our global purchasing platform, VIA will connect global healthcare equipment suppliers to a network of verified local distributors – with a mission to provide universal access to the tools that enable quality healthcare.
I believe healthcare is a basic human right, irrespective of where in the world we are born. And that everyone should have access to the tools necessary for quality healthcare. In our short existence, VIA has delivered medical equipment to 41 countries, positively impacting the lives of over 150,000 mothers and newborns. – Noah Perin, Founder of VIA Global Health
Merck KGaA implemented the CURAFA™ points of care concept in Kenya. Local entrepreneurs with nursing and pharmaceutical training jointly operate a primary healthcare facility in peri-urban locations outside Nairobi county under the CURAFA™ brand name.
They offer affordable and high-quality healthcare, disease screening and basic diagnostics and this has improved disease awareness amongst patients and increased the availability of over-the-counter and prescription medicines.
Societies have varying needs and expectations on healthcare solutions. Collaborations to generate primary healthcare access for our community is an important step forward for sustainable development. We kindly thank Merck for the CURAFA initiative. – Martin Moshisho Martine, Deputy Governor of Kajiado County
Mobile Schools Health is a social business based in South Africa. They work with public and private partners to deliver preventative healthcare services to under-privileged primary school learners. By using large-scale, multi-disciplinary mobile clinics, they deliver optometry, primary healthcare and oral healthcare services directly to schools, ensuring convenience for children as well as their families and schools.
To date we have provided high impact preventative healthcare to over 125,000 children, from issuing glasses and providing vaccinations to preventive dental care in the form of fissure sealants. – Grant Byron, Head of Strategy
Together, these organisations showcase the various approaches that can be taken to one problem. They each present unique cases of how a business has successfully made health commodities available to those who need it the very most. We look forward to following their work closely and we truly believe these organisations have fantastic scalable potential. Here’s to their future!
On 20 March this year, Luis Miguel Botero discovered that his social business, Pomario, faced an existential threat. It was the day that a nation-wide quarantine in Colombia was announced, which was ultimately extended until the end of August. For Botero, as for many business owners, this presented the threat that his social businesses’ revenues would disappear overnight.
These have been difficult times for our portfolio companies. They are working hard to protect those they employ and serve. In India, Waste Ventures recycle plastic and improve the lives of waste pickers. As they are dependent on revenues from previous months to meet their expenses, the abrupt pause to their activities has made their ability to pay their workforce much more difficult.
Tugende is a Social Business that helps mototaxi drivers double their incomes by owning their motorcycles. They have helped over 18,000 motorcycle taxi drivers with higher incomes, including the drivers’ families, that’s over 85,000 people.
As we embark on our next round of research into social intrapreneurship at Yunus Social Business, we are looking at the business case for social transformation. In a year where we've seen short-term priorities rise to the top of the agenda, can empirical proof help turn the tide?
People in rural and peri-urban Kenya are lacking access to high-quality healthcare and medication. Less than 5% of Kenya’s GDP is spent on healthcare and only 17% of Kenyans have health insurance coverage. With 46% of the country’s population living below the poverty line, Kenyans are particularly vulnerable to financial catastrophe when facing health issues.
Nominate a corporate social intrapreneur for a scholarship for the Unusual Pioneers platform until Feb 28th. The Unusual Pioneers is a joint initiative by Yunus Social Business, Porticus, and Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, sister organisation of the World Economic Forum.