What Does Scalable Innovation in Global Health Look Like?
On September 24, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and MSH recognized the five winners of USAID’s Inclusive Health Access Prize: GIC Med, Infiuss, JokkoSanté, mDoc, and the Piramal Swasthya Management and Research Institute. These private-sector organizations have developed and proven innovative solutions to expand access to lifesaving basic health care in low- and middle-income countries while demonstrating a vision for expanding their approach.
“Locally Leading the Way to UHC: USAID’s Inclusive Health Access Prize,” attended by nearly 200 people in person and online, was held in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly’s first-ever High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
“This is about getting essential lifesaving medications that are available — but not made accessible — to everybody,” said Melissa Bime, a nurse and now CEO of Infiuss, an online blood bank and emergency digital blood source platform that provides hospitals and patients in Cameroon with quick and reliable access to blood.
Within just six months of operation, Bime and her team distributed 4,000 bags of blood to patients in 23 hospitals across two regions of Cameroon and are currently piloting the service in Côte d’Ivoire. Local private-sector organizations like Infiuss have untapped potential for saving lives, improving the quality of health services, and bridging critical gaps in the health system.
”This prize celebrates the ingenuity and opportunity that arise when private, locally designed solutions partner with public-sector entities to promote, protect, and help maintain health for all,” said Irene Koek, Acting Assistant Administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Global Health.
“We know that in Senegal, up to 60 percent of family health expenses are linked to medicines,” said Adama Kane, a telecom engineer who gathered a team of doctors and pharmacists to launch JokkoSanté. This digital pharmacy app lets people use points to buy health products and helps them save for out-of-pocket expenses. Having already touched the lives of 40,000 people, the company aims to impact more than 50 million people in 40 African and Asian countries by 2030.
More than half of the world’s population today is not getting the essential health services they need. All actors, including for-profit and not-for-profit entities, must work together to expand and ensure access for all . “These initiatives are great examples of global health innovations that can help make universal health coverage a reality,” said Marian W. Wentworth, President and CEO of Management Sciences for Health.
Over video, Dr. Conrad Tankou shared how his company, GIC Space Ltd., is using a portable microscope connected to an app to reach thousands of women in rural communities of Cameroon with breast and cervical cancer screening services. “400,000 women die every year in sub-Saharan Africa from cancers,” said Tankou. “Our goal is to reach more women in all communities to close the gaps in cancer.”
“We need to think about the whole system if we’re really going to have a transformational change,” said Nneka Mobisson, founder of mDoc, a company focused on tackling the chronic disease epidemic in Nigeria. Using a technology-based solution that provides people with personalized, integrated care support, mDoc aims to ensure that more than one million people with chronic conditions have access to the care and support they need.
“The prize represents many of the key values we strive to achieve as an agency,” said Koek. While there’s no single approach to achieving UHC, “we do believe that countries stand a better chance when solutions or approaches are locally driven and drawn from multiple sectors, working together to create high-performing health systems.”
A panel discussion with the winners was moderated by Alix Zwane, CEO of the Global Innovation Fund. The event also welcomed remarks from the Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health in Nigeria, and Dr. James Campbell, Director of the Health Workforce Department at the World Health Organization.
The prize winners — and the hundreds of applicants across 68 countries — highlight the creativity and capacity of local private-sector organizations to improve health in their own countries and beyond. Out-of-the-box thinking that often occurs outside of the public sector can boost the reach of traditional public health goals — like access to medicines and robust primary care — further than we could have imagined.