Design Expo 2014: Online Discussion - Enhancing Health Outcomes

This online panel discussion at 3.30 UK time on Tuesday 10 June will explore the following questions:

  1. What are some of the key health challenges where business innovation can make a difference at scale?
  2. What are the key drivers for achieving better health outcomes at the base of the pyramid - is it just a matter of better products, or are the other factors such as better distribution or better community engagement?
  3. How can private sector products and distribution systems better connect with government systems?

Panelists include: Jack Castle and Carey Carpenter, Living Goods; Simon Berry, Cola Life; Erica Frenkel, Gradian Health; Ramil Burden, GlaxoSmithKline; Donika Dimovska, Program Director, Results for Development Institute; Julia Watson, DFID.

Editor's Note:

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This event is part of the Business Fights Poverty Design Expo 2014. Running from 9 to 13 June,  the Design Expo is an online celebration of products, services and business models transforming the lives of poor people.  The Design Expo is a collaboration with iDE UK and is being supported by the UK's Department for International Development.

The Expo will include a vibrant mix of blogs, Google Hangouts, online panel discussions, a Twitter Jam and a virtual exhibition zone. Each day we will focus on a different sector: Energy (9 June), Health (10 June), Communications (11 June), Livelihoods (including enterprise, finance and agriculture) (12 June) and Water & Sanitation (13 June).

From Monday 9 June, you will be able to access all the activities via the Design Expo landing page,  Participation in the Design Expo is free.  You will simply need to sign in (or sign up for free) to Business Fights Poverty.


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Hi Donika: can you expand a bit more on what the challenges are in taking innovation/penetration to scale?

We've seen the same  with traditional volunteer community health workers. They are certainly overstretched and under compensated for their time. They also often are unable to keep in stock of needed treatments. 

We recruit women that are invested in the community's health, but also receive motivation through selling of products like pro poor durables (cook stoves, water filters, solar), consumer goods (soaps, diapers, etc.), preventative measures (bed nets, water purification, clean delivery kits), and treatments (ACTs, ORS+zinc).

The margin on these products paired with routine monthly training refreshers keeps these women motivated over the long term. We essentially see our health promoters as 'retailers on the go'.

We are on the other side of that continuum, running the networks of frontline providers who are trained to assess, diagnose, treat and follow-up on basic cases - and always refer severe cases to a nearby facility. Our frontline Community Health Promoters can promote good behaviors in households in their communities and encourage facility visits in communities where access or awareness has historically been a challenge.

Completely agree Erica. We see many organizations profiled by CHMI that are struggling to make it at scale because the business proposition is not there. Ramil -- what you are suggesting is something that may be happening in certain contexts, but not yet at the level that it should be. 

Hi Simon - we do! We currently locally source ORS and Zinc in Uganda to reduce supply chain actors and costs, maximizing our margins and those of our agents. We provide promotions during rainy season to help drive sales, utilizing training from our skilled staff and organisations like CHAI to help drive home the health benefits. 

We would certainly be keen to hear more about your innovative delivery methods and products! I actually used to live in Zambia and have seen your products in the field. Great stuff!

Thanks for all the comments so far!

Let's move on to the second question:

Q2: What are the key drivers for achieving better health outcomes at the base of the pyramid - is it just a matter of better products, or are the other factors such as better distribution or better community engagement?


Ramil/Erica This is fine but why should they do more? What's in it for them? One might persuade a private sector business to 'do the right thing' on an occasional basis but we need sustainable solutions don't we?

Exactly - we always end up having conversations with the administration at the hospital or provider level about how important the communication is between those with their "eyes on the communities/villages" and the health facility. Have you seen that communication (and/or referrals) improve in the communities served by your health workers? Have you worked with any ambulance-like services? would love to connect with you over that...

Yes I agree, Donika. We're starting to see some promising pilot partnerships and some organisations like WHO are very engaged in m-health at a strategic level. But we need to get larger, scaleable partnerships that address the healthcare ecosystem as a whole and we're not there yet. I think WHO are really looking at this though.


This gets us into the whole discussion about health systems.  The right products are, of course, important.  But getting them to the people who need them at the bottom of the pyramid requires much more.  Purchasing power, acess in remote rural areas or urban slums (distribution), often behaviour change, often public sector regulation and oversight.  And on and on.

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