Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

$1Million Gates Award Goes to Aravind!

We have talked about the Aravind Eye Care System quite a bit before and have published several academic articles on Aravind. One is forthcoming in the July 2008 issue of the journal Health Affairs which is focused on India and China. So I was thrilled to hear that Aravind won the 2008 Global Health Council Gates Award. We were very fortunate to receive a fellowship to goto Aravind in the summer of 2004 and that is were our interest in innovation and health really became solidified and this is eventually what led to the creation of this blog. The folks at Aravind (which includes Aurolab) are truly remarkable people, this award is well deserved.

The Aravind clinic started in 1976 in a 11 bed rented house and today is probably the largest eye care system in the world. Their mission is to eradicate blindness in developing regions, which is primarily due to cataracts. Aurolab is the non-profit medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing arm of Aravind. For a quick overview on Aravind see this Wall Street Journal piece or this Fast Company article and see this video (35 min, Link). Basic facts about Aravind & Aurolab:

Aravind
- 2/3rds of patients receive some sort of charity care, 1/3 pay above cost
- 280,000 cataract surgeries per year
- 5 hospitals across the state of Tamil Nadu, over 1000 beds
- 1300 community eye camps
- 2 Million outpatient visits per year

Aurolab
- Export products to over 120 nations
- Reduced price of synthetic lenses (IOL) for cataract surgery to under $10
- FDA compliant facility
- IOL, suture, pharmaceutical, spectacle and hearing aid divisions
- Globally unique due to scale and non profit status

Blindness due to cataracts is a substantial problem in developing countries. Aravind and Aurolab managed to build infrastructure, systems and manufacture core medical technologies at the local level that allowed them to chart their own course. Instead of relying on a non-sustainable donor model, they decided to build their own system and self-manufacture their own technologies and still manage to make a substantial profit.

Some of the factors of success include: solid management, charismatic leadership, clear socially driven mission and unwavering persistence. Of course there are many other factors, see our case study for more information on how they built partnerships, transferred technology and charted their own direction. Finally, one very important ingredient, is that it takes time (see historical milestones). Aravind was started in the mid 1970s and Aurolab was founded in 1992. They faced various challenges, learned from their mistakes and over the course of 3 decades built a world renowned system.

Others have also covered this award, see:
ThinkChange India
The Scientific Indian (whose grandfather was treated at Aravind)

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  1. [...] $1Million Gates Award Goes to Aravind! [...]

  2. [...] Aman at Technology, Health & Development profiles Aravind Eye Care System of Tamil Nadu, which serves hundreds of thousands of patients with the goal of eradicating blindness (much of it due to cataracts) in developing regions – and which has won the 2008 Global Health Council Gates Award. [...]


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