For more than one billion people around the world, getting health care isn’t a given. Many live inaccessibly far from a clinic, and must travel for hours or even days to see a doctor. For others, the problem is quality. In government clinics in resource-constrained countries, staff absenteeism can run up to 40 percent and out-of-stock rates can be as high as 50 percent, while studies show that nearly half of medicines at private drugstores are fake. Right now, more than 7 million health workers are needed to deliver care, a number forecasted to more than double by 2030. Community health workers (CHWs) can dramatically expand access to health care for the vulnerable — far faster and at a lower cost than facility-based care alone. However, few CHW programs have reached the scale necessary to tackle this global problem. Too often, CHWs are not effectively trained, equipped, financed, managed or motivated.
Living Goods and Last Mile Health see an opportunity to change this. Today, so many sectors — from books to retail to taxis — have been reinvented by mobile technology. Their goal is to use technology to extend health care to all. These two organizations, in partnership with governments and key philanthropists, plan to deploy thousands of digitally-empowered CHWs to deliver quality care, door-to-door, at a fraction of the cost of training doctors or nurses. This push will permanently and radically transform community health workers, increasing their reach, effectiveness and ability to earn a living. In doing so, they will create a model for the next generation of high-impact CHWs who can provide access to care for the hardest to reach.
By teaming up, these two organizations will create unstoppable momentum for community health work. They are leveraging two key innovations to make this possible. First, community health workers will be equipped with Smart Health app, created by Living Goods and Medic Mobile, which automates diagnoses of deadly conditions and captures accurate, real-time data to manage thousands of far-flung workers. Second, they’ll transform how community health workers learn through the Community Health Academy, launched by Last Mile Health with the 2017 TED Prize. The Academy will offer free mobile training tools for community health workers and a suite of management courses for the leaders who support for them. By 2021, Living Goods and Last Mile Health will bring quality health care to 34 million people in six countries in East and West Africa. Meanwhile, they will bring quality jobs to 50,000 people.
These two organizations have extraordinary track records. In just two years, Living Goods has scaled up to serve 6 million people across Uganda and Kenya, and a randomized control trial shows that the health workers they support are reducing child deaths by 27 percent. And Last Mile Health is helping train 4,000 community health workers in partnership with the Government of Liberia in a historic national program — in the regions the organization serves, community health workers have increased the rate of kids receiving life-saving treatments by 50 percent. Working together, Living Goods and Last Mile Health are poised to reshape community health work in Africa and are on track to meet their goal of serving 34 million people by 2021. But their plan goes beyond that. They will also proactively spread their model to other geographies and actors, ensuring their impact is multiplied and enduring.
Chuck Slaughter founded TravelSmith, a catalog for serious travelers, and grew it to more than $100 million in sales. From there, he participated in the acquisition and turnaround of major consumer brands, like Spiegel, with combined sales of $2 billion. He led the turnaround of a franchise of health clinics serving the poor in Kenya with a simple idea: what if shop owners went door-to-door? After a stint as an “Avon lady” to learn the model, he launched Living Goods in Uganda in 2007 in partnership with BRAC. He’s a recipient of the 2016 Skoll Award and many other honors.
Born in Liberia, Raj Panjabi fled war at age 9, but returned years later as a medical student. There, he found a health care system in devastation — only 50 doctors remained to treat a population of four million. He co-founded Last Mile Health in 2007, and has taken it to national scale, supporting the Government of Liberia in its deployment of 4,000 health workers to provide care to 1.2 million people. Trained in medicine and public health at Harvard (where he’s been on faculty since 2011), Raj is the recipient of the 2017 TED Prize and many other honors.
To tackle childhood diseases in rural Africa, Living Goods founder Chuck Slaughter borrowed a page from the cosmetics giant Avon’s playbook, now with a tech twist.
Raj Panjabi is building the Community Health Academy, a mobile platform for training health care workers remotely through video and audio instruction.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance teams up with Living Goods and Last Mile Health to scale up immunization across Africa through digitally-empowered community health programs.
See how technology is transforming life for community health workers like Serena and Prince -- and how TED's new initiative, The Audacious Project, is amplifying their impact.
Today, the Community Health Academy opens registration for its first leadership course, offered in partnership with HarvardX and edX.