C2C was asked to present at a conference of Fulbright scholars from the developing world – all studying at universities in the US – on the intersection between innovations in science and technology and global health issues. There were about 80 scholars in attendance and two other panelists in addition to me:
Dr. Bill Rodriguez founded Daktari Diagnostics, which is creating low-cost, durable field equipment for CD4 tests (which measure the load of HIV disease-fighting cells in blood; it’s the leading test for assessing HIV stage and prognosis). Prior to starting Daktari, Dr. Rodriguez returned to Harvard (where he’d been on faculty and started research programs in global health policy and global health diagnostics) and helped launch the Global Health Delivery Project. He has served as a consultant to the World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on global HIV and tuberculosis treatment, has been an advisor to more than a dozen national governments, and served as a member of the WHO’s global HIV guidelines committee.
Jennifer Staples-Clark founded Unite For Sight while a sophomore at Yale University in fall 2000. With Jennifer’s leadership and vision as Chief Executive Officer, Unite For Sight is now a leading global health delivery organization that provides cost-effective care to the world’s poorest people. By investing human and financial resources into the social ventures of eye clinics in developing countries, Unite For Sight has provided eye care to more than 1.2 million people living in extreme poverty, including more than 42,000 sight-restoring surgeries.
These are heavyweights in the “technological solutions applied to health problems” space, and it was a great honor for me to be speaking alongside them. That’s an environment that most charges me – a space where a group of highly motivated and creative people get together to discuss new ways of tackling old problems.
One thing I talked about yesterday that C2C hasn’t discussed previously is the idea of the Three Delays, which I offer as reasons for the gap between known essential care treatments and the women and children who are dying for lack of access to them.
1) The delay in deciding to seek care, which speaks to a lack of education in the patient population.
2) The delay in reaching care, which suggests a lack of adequate infrastructure, specifically that infrastructure is not proximal to the needy populations.
3) The delay in accessing quality care, which points to an inadequacy of clinical training and/or diagnostic and pharmaceutical resources.
C2C seeks to tackle all three of these delays with our bifurcated model of facility (infrastructure, #2) and program support to local partners (education and resources, #s 1 and 3).
Another thing I discussed in yesterday’s presentation were reasons beyond “we know what works” for focusing health services on women and children. Specifically, that it’s good business (the return on investment is high: money spent on primary health ed and services now returns exponential savings in healthcare costs to health systems later) and good foreign economic policy (10 of the 15 largest importers of US goods and services are graduates of US foreign aid programs, and women in the developing world make up the largest emerging market this planet has ever seen). I find these arguments extremely compelling. It’s not an entirely emotional investment; rather, a sound economic move.
I’m returning to the Fulbright conference tomorrow to participate on a judging panel as teams of students present interventions based on case studies of global epidemics (HIV), natural disasters (cyclones), and localized disease outbreaks (cholera). I’m looking forward to more dynamic and thoughtful discussion!