Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Archive for November 2006

Dean Kamen Inventing Portable Device for Clean Water

The Boston Herald reported today that inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen has some pilot projects for water and power technologies:

Kamen is currently at work on a water treatment system that was successfully tested just a couple months ago in a village in Honduras, he said. The portable device turns contaminated water into clean water by distilling it, using a fraction of the energy required by traditional distillation systems. Kamen predicts such systems could help solve health problems caused by waterborne pathogens all over the world.

Another of his inventions was recently used to supply electricity to two small villages in Bangladesh, he said. These generators used methane gas from cow dung to provide power to homes that had never had electricity before.”We’re trying to build products for people who have no clean water and no power,” he said. ”

Credit goes to MedGadget for this news.

Written by Aman

November 30, 2006 at 11:13 am

Posted in Global Health, Water

Blog Roundup: Solutions in Global Health

There has been a plethora of stories and posts from around the web focusing on solutions in global health. Here are a select few that are well worth noting:

1) Developing Appropriate Technology – –
Even though this is from last month and is “old” I thought it was important enough to highlight an organization that is focused on incubating the manufacture of low cost technologies. The main blog for AIDG (Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group) is well worth checking out for their mission and projects and Fast Company highlighted the organization as well as the Private Sector blog from the World Bank.

AIDG also has highligted the involvement of yet another celebrity in the global health arena. As we posted previously Jay Z had an MTV special called Water for Life. Check out AIDG and the video links they have. When I first saw this news I was really excited as I thought it would be an opportunity to spread the word about this issue, however after trying to watch the 30 minute special on TVs in three different households at three different times I was unable to access the show. MTV was showing this special on one of their other channels and not the main channel AND the TV times were extremely poor (one of the three *total* showings I could find was at 7am). So much for spreading the word. I suppose I was naive in thinking millions would be watching MTV when this came on.

2) Simple Test Could Make World’s Water Supplies Safer:
Dr. Buttery at VCU has post on a new test for detecting arsenic, you can read that blog for more details. The folks at Brown’s Global Health Blog have also posted a story about water – Clean Water is Right (Economist Story).

3) Stories of Hope From Africa & the African Brand:
Time Magazine and their blog has another piece on success on the ground. I have not had a chance to fully read their main piece but I encourage you to check it out. It is nice to see them highlighting hope instead of the usual barrage of despair. Related to this, from Pienso, is a piece on Africa’s brand that is well worth passing along to your friends. A tiny snippet: “The need for Africa to communicate, differentiate and symbolize itself to all the global audience of consumers and investors cannot be overstated… Ultimately, the hope of Africa and its global family lies in investing in a new identity of a functioning Africa than a selective approach where islands of hope are created in the midst of an ocean of hopelessness and misery.”

4) Harnessing University Research to Improve Global Health: UAEM
The Center for Global Development health policy blog discusses the coverage this topic is recieving in some high level journals such as Nature and BMJ.

5) Health & Human Rights: Health Affairs
While this is not directly focused on solutions it is worth pointing out the coverage on human rights. Picking up on the APHA theme, the new Health Affairs blog (for a leading policy journal) had four posts last week on human rights that you might want to check out.

Written by Aman

November 29, 2006 at 7:27 pm

Posted in Global Health, Water

Kaiser Univision & MTV Partnerships for World AIDS Day

saludesvida.gifIn the lead up to World AIDS Day, the Kaiser Family Foundation is partnering with several organizations including MTV and Univision. Although this project from Univision focuses on the United States, it realizes the power of television as an ICT for health education, in this case for HIV/AIDS. Univision is the fifth largest television network in the United States and broadcasts exclusively in Spanish, largely targeting the Mexican and Mexican-American communities. This project may prove to be an interesting learning experience for international health and development, as Univision reaches nearly the entire spectrum of Latinos, from the very affluent to the working class, including new immigrants.

MIAMI, FL, NOVEMBER 27, 2006 — (NYSE: UVN) — Univision, in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation, will air a half-hour special “Entérate… SIDA, 25 Años Después” (Get the Facts!…AIDS, 25 Years Later). As part of Univision’s Peabody award winning health initiative “Salud es Vida…! Entérate!” (Lead a Healthy Life…Get the Facts!), the special will explore AIDS among Hispanics in the United States.

This poignant special will feature an exclusive interview with Univision’s Emmy award winning talk-show host Cristina Saralegui, one of the first national Spanish-language on-air personalities to address this critical health issue…In addition to this half-hour special, Univision and Kaiser have developed a new series of Public Service Announcements (PSA) and informational vignettes that will broadcast throughout the month of December. These announcements encourage young Hispanics to learn more about HIV/AIDS, talk to their families and partners about HIV, and get regular HIV tests.

Univision Communications Inc. is the premier Spanish-language media company in the United States. Its operations include Univision Network, the most-watched Spanish-language broadcast television network in the U.S. reaching 99% of U.S. Hispanic Households; TeleFutura Network, a general-interest Spanish-language broadcast television network, which was launched in 2002 and now reaches 87% of U.S. Hispanic Household…

The rest of this story can be found on the Kaiser Family Foundation website. RH Reality Check has also blogged about World AIDS Day, I encourage you to check out their website.

Written by Jaspal

November 28, 2006 at 12:59 am

New Book on Global Health

A new book by Hans Rosling and others is out on Global health. You can read more on Dr. Rosling’s blog.


“Is it possible to write a book on the health of all 6.5 billion persons living on the globe? Well we did it and now it is on sale from Monday 27/11 2006.”

Written by Aman

November 27, 2006 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Global Health

Internet Extends Reach Of Bangladeshi Villagers

Last week the Washington Post had an interesting article about the power of mobile phones. Ndiyo and NextBillion have also blogged about this.

Internet Extends Reach Of Bangladeshi Villagers
Cellphone-Linked Computers Help Break Rural Isolation

By Kevin Sullivan / Wednesday, November 22, 2006; Page A12

CHARKHAI, Bangladesh — The village doctor’s diagnosis was dire: Marium needed immediate surgery to replace two heart valves. The 28-year-old mother of three said she was confused and terrified. She could barely imagine open-heart surgery. She had no idea how her family of farm laborers could pay for an operation that would cost $4,000.

Mahbubul Ambia, who started an Internet center in the town of Charkhai, has helped customers find doctors, make Internet phone calls and communicate by video conference. Mahbubul Ambia, who started an Internet center in the town of Charkhai, has helped customers find doctors, make Internet phone calls and communicate by video conference. The next day, Sept. 16, her father went to see Mahbubul Ambia, who had recently installed the only Internet connection for 20 miles in far northeastern Bangladesh. Ambia sat down at a computer, connected to the Internet by a cable plugged into his cellphone, and searched for cardiac specialists in Dhaka, the capital, 140 miles away. He found one and made an appointment for Marium, who like many people here goes by just one name. The specialist examined her and said she needed only a routine surgical procedure that cost $500.

Villages in one of the world’s poorest countries, long isolated by distance and deprivation, are getting their first Internet access, all connected over cellphones. And in the process, millions of people who have no land-line telephones, and often lack electricity and running water, in recent months have gained access to services considered basic in richer countries: weather reports, e-mail, even a doctor’s second opinion.

Cellphones have become a new bridge across the digital divide between the world’s rich and poor, as innovators use the explosive growth of cellphone networks to connect people to the Internet. Bangladesh now has about 16 million cellphone subscribers — and 2 million new users each month — compared with just 1 million land-line phones to serve a population of nearly 150 million people.

Full Story.

Written by Mahad Ibrahim

November 27, 2006 at 7:10 pm

Success Stories from Africa

This post is courtesy of the Time Global Health Blog where they point out that it is about time we have some focus on solutions. Of course we whole heartedly agree that we need to start documenting these projects and sharing ideas:

From VOA: “A new report finds the health of peoplearhr_book_cover.gif in Africa is worse than in any other part of the world. But, the report by the World Health Organization also presents a number of success stories that show Africa can tackle its own health problems. This report, for the first time, focuses on the health of the 738 million people living in 46 countries in the African region.” Read the rest of the story at VOA and you can view the full WHO report on their website.

Written by Aman

November 21, 2006 at 3:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Paper Emergency Shelters at the LA MOCA & UN Politics

While in LA this past weekend I went to opening day of a brand new exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art  (LA MOCA) entitled skin + bones: parallel practices in fashion and design. I was very surprised to see one piece in the exhibit displaying an innovation in emergency shelters for refugees by Shigeru Ban. From what I can tell Shigeru Ban is a world renowned architect who on the side has decided to devote some of his work to helping humanity. The gallery educator told me this piece was a part of the shelter and structure and innovation in structure theme. The entire exhibit took over six years to put together.

From the exhibit: “Shigeru Ban began using paper tubes in 1986 as a structural material in exhibition design. Inexpensive, easily replaceable, and low-tech, paper tubes can be made to any length and are also recyclable with little waste being produced during their manufacture…His cardboard and paper emergency structures have been used for earthquake victims in Japan, Turkey, India and more than 2 million Rwandan refugees…”

I watched the video of constructing paper tube shelters in Rwanda and noticed 3 basic supplies were needed: the paper rolls (the bones of the structure), plastic connectors (to connect the paper rolls), and string (for added stability). As Ban demonstrated the construction through this 15 minute video I was left with more questions than answers. I wondered, how much the paper rolls and other materials cost, how difficult it was to have these shipped, and how complex was it really to set up? I certainly applaud such a heralded architect and effort but I am also curious about on the ground reality.
I did a little research and found this from a NY Times Magazine article a few years ago on the politics of emergency shelter:

“That term — ”red tape” — popped up in nearly every conversation I had with architects, including Nader Khalili, who has spent more than a decade meeting with the U.N., offering proposals and seeing almost nothing come of them. Shigeru Ban spent several years as a U.N. consultant but eventually left and now runs his own nongovernmental organization, the Voluntary Architects Network. He first proposed his paper houses in Rwanda because refugees were cutting down trees to build shelters and whole forests were being lost. But Ban says the U.N. told him that his houses were ”too nice.” ”The refugees would stay longer, instead of returning home,” he said. ”I was told I couldn’t provide them something too good.” One U.N. worker I spoke with readily admitted this: ”We don’t really want to do better than tents for refugees,” he said.”

Written by Aman

November 20, 2006 at 6:40 pm

FROM THE FIELD: Home Health Visits on Bicycle

Case Study: Arisen Woman and the Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN)
Cape Town, South Africa

Hey! Was that a nurse on a bicycle? Yes – with bicycles, home health care workers from Arisen Woman are doubling the number of patients they see per day.

There is currently a shortage of health workers in South Africa.  Home health care workers care for the most vulnerable populations – patients who cannot travel to health facilities, or who are near death but not in hospice care. The patient population is composed of young children, the escalating population of adult patients with late-stage complications of AIDS/TB and chronic diseases, and the elderly.

After the carers learn how to ride a bicycle, patient care improves as they are able to make more regular patient visits, and able to devote more nursing time to patients that was previously lost to walking between patients. “Before, I was walking door to door.. It took me an hour to get 2 children, and when I got my bike, I only took 15 minutes to get 5 children. It was very good to see I could get quicker with my work.” Katrina Matthews. The health workers are much less tired, as they are not walking 4+ hours each day on their patient rounds, and can bring more medications with them.

In much of South Africa, health workers often walk door-to-door to see their patients, which limits them to a small radius. In programs with better funding, a driver will transport the workers back and forth between patients. However, this also restricts patient reach, as the workers must stay in the same area to facilitate pickups by car. With bicycles, each worker is completely independent and can see patients within a 15 km radius. Arisen Woman encourages carers to promote exercise for their patients, and seeing the home health care worker arrive on a bicycle sets a great example.  The bike is an ideal vehicle for Africa, for in areas with poor road conditions, biking is very safe, as traffic must slow down to negotiate roads.

Financially, bicycles are a small initial investment, with minimal maintenance costs. In comparison, motorized transport requires daily transport fees, or if the program owns vehicles – constant fuel expenses and significant maintenance.

And finally, this also benefits the carer, who is usually paid per patient seen, so improving productivity increases their income significantly.

“It was one of the luckiest days of my life, when I got my bike.” Ruwayda Dickenson, home health care worker – Arisen Woman.

Listen to an interview on the project with Andrew Wheeldon, Managing Director of the Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN).

The Bicycle Empowerment Network’s project on improving health worker transport with bicycles is supported by the Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) and is being tested in Ghana, Senegal and South Africa.

Part 1 in a series on bicycles and health in Africa.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by farzaneh

November 17, 2006 at 11:01 am

Posted in Access to Health

Anti-Malarial Chemical Company Wins 2006 Tech Award

In a post earlier this week we mentioned that the Tech Awards for technology benefiting humanity were being given out tonight. The 2006 Health Award goes to Sumitomo Chemical for their development of Olyset® technology which is used in bed nets. “This is an insecticidal active ingredient which is directly incorporated within the polyethylene fibers of the net. The technology enables a very slow release of this insecticide onto the surface of the fibers, where it repels and kills malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes for at least five years. The slow release of the insecticide over a period solves the issue of reapplication of the chemicals, and the highly robust polyethylene fibers provide a product that is sturdy, effective and able to last up to seven or eight years in rugged rural African conditions.”

This is a great technology coupled with celebrity based population education. The company has enlisted footballers/soccer players to spread the message:”Sumitomo Chemical has partnered with the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria to help communicate the risks of malaria to Africans, along with the benefits of proper prevention.”

“Twelve international footballers with African origins have recorded a total of 18 public service announcements in French, English and ethnic languages Ingala, Yoruba and Fan.The clips feature the footballers’ personal testimony about suffering from malaria themselves and are interspersed with footage from professional football matches.”

Written by Aman

November 16, 2006 at 8:24 pm

Are on-site doctors necessary for simple eye test to diagnose severe malaria?

The Science and Development Network ( carried a story today about new diagnostic method to detect cerebral malaria (“Simple eye test can diagnose severe malaria”). Although cerebral malaria is not the most prevalent form of the disease, it is the most lethal.

Diagnosing cerebral malaria — a severe complication of malaria in which the Plasmodium falciparum parasite infects capillaries that flow through the tissues of the brain — can be difficult, as patients can be unconscious and have a number of other illnesses.

Now researchers have found that certain changes on the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, are unique to severe forms of malaria.

This will enable doctors to determine whether a child is suffering from cerebral malaria or some other, unrelated illness, and prescribe immediate treatment accordingly…

The diagnosis only requires an instrument called an ophthalmoscope, which is commonly used in Africa for studying eye disease. “Diagnosis requires special training in eye examination, but is relatively straightforward and cost effective, which is essential in resource-poor settings such as Africa,” says Dr. Beare.

Although a larger study is underway in an attempt to scientifically replicate the preliminary findings, it is a promising diagnostic. My first thought reading this was ‘great! if the second study comes back with similar findings, all we’ll have to do is train docs to conduct the test’. But the continued brain drain of African healthcare professionals (see also the UN report on International Migration and Development) may require fresh thinking if the intervention is to be scaled. Research at the University of California, Berkeley on remote imaging may offer one option to bring distant patients within the reach of skilled healthcare workers. A June 2006 UC Berkeley press release (“New wireless networking system brings eye care to thousands in India”) describes a remote imaging pilot program in India:

Thousands of residents of rural villages in India are receiving quality eye care thanks to a collaborative effort between an Indian hospital network and the researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Intel Corporation who have developed a new technology for low-cost rural connectivity.

This new technology, based on “Wi-Fi” wireless networks, allows eye specialists at Aravind Eye Hospital at Theni in the southern India state of Tamil Nadu to interview and examine patients in five remote clinics via a high-quality video conference.

Just 17 months old, the pilot project has proved so successful that the partners are announcing this week that it will be expanded in the state to include five hospitals that will be linked to 50 clinics that are expected to serve half a million patients each year.

In rural India, the scale of the health return justifies the initial system investment. In many rural African communities, the relatively few number of cerebral malaria cases may not pull sufficient resources on their own. But taking into consideration the likely high burden of undiagnosed ocular diseases, we can see the added value of detecting and treating time-sensitive malarial cases only underscores the urgency in scaling not only healthcare worker capacity but also the infrastructure for cost-effective healthcare management.

Written by Ben

November 15, 2006 at 1:57 am

Innovative Non-Profits Addressing Social Problems: Scojo Profile

Nov 14, 2006
Scojo Foundation Wins Fast Company Social Capitalist Award


Fast Company and Monitor Group Recognize Innovative Non-Profits for Applying Business Savvy to the World’s Toughest Social Problems

scojo2.jpg“New York, NY (November 14, 2006) — Scojo Foundation, a non-profit social enterprise that works to improve the economic condition of families in the developing world by broadening access to affordable reading glasses, is honored to be among the 43 winners of the 2007 Social Capitalist Award…

Employing market-based solutions to address this crucial public health issue, Scojo Foundation trains microfranchisees, or “Vision Entrepreneurs,” to run profitable businesses conducting vision screenings within their communities, selling affordable reading glasses, and referring those requiring advanced eye care to reputable clinics.” The full press release can be found on the Scojo Foundation website.

From Fast Company: The amazing organizations that received the Fast Company/Monitor Group Social Capitalist Awards have found a better way to do good: They’re using the disciplines of the corporate world to tackle daunting social problems. In our third exclusive ranking, we used a similarly hard-nosed approach to find the 25 best social entrepreneurs.

Written by Aman

November 14, 2006 at 10:23 pm

Panel on Science & Technology in HIV/AIDS Prevention, Dec 1st

Posted from the Global Health Council

“A Year in Review”

More Policy Series events >

Dec. 1, 2006 — 9:30-11 am
1111 19th Street, NW – Suite 1120
Washington, D.C.

Approximately 40 million people are living with HIV throughout the world – and that number increases in every region every day. In commemoration of World AIDS Day 2006, you are invited to join us for a forum discussing the scientific and technological advances we have made this year in the treatment and prevention of the pandemic. The speakers will also discuss their hopes and expectations for continued advancement in the coming year.

  • Ron Gray, Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
  • Franka De Vignes, Deputy Director, Alliance for Microbicide Development
  • Chrispin Kambili, M.D., Senior Director, Medical and Clinical Support, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative

Moderator: Nils Daulaire, Global Health Council
Please complete the RSVP form if you plan to attend.

Written by Ben

November 13, 2006 at 3:26 pm

Private Sector & Public Health

At last week’s APHA (American Public Health Association) Annual Meeting, I attended a session titled “The Role and Contribution of the Private Sector in Realizing Health Sector Reform”. With all the current emphasis on public-private partnerships, I was disappointed to see only 20 attendees at a conference with 14,000 participants (to put this in perspective, attendees were seated on the floor at 4 other sessions I attended – seating capacity was typically 75-100).

The 3 panelists – Barbara Addy (USAID, Global Development Alliance), Romano Fernandes (Senior Advisor, Constella Futures/AFFORD, Uganda), and Dr. Greg Allgood (Procter & Gamble) – each spoke about different efforts to develop partnerships between the private sector and government/NGOs in order to improve public health in developing countries.

In discussing USAID’s partnerships with firms as diverse as Kraft Foods, Bayer, and ExxonMobil, Ms. Addy spoke of similar activities at other development agencies, including DFID (UK), JICA (Japan), and AFD (France).

Mr. Fernandes presented AFFORD as a health marketing initiative. They partner with domestic producers of health-related products (e.g. 4-6 Kampala-based pharmaceutical manufacturers of ACTs – artemisinin-based combination therapy for malaria) in order to brand and distribute the products. Currently, they work in HIV/AIDS, malaria, family planning, and child survival. The most interesting point Mr. Fernandes made was that it is necessary to phase out ineffective drugs to create new opportunities in the markteplace for the private sector. As long as the ineffective drugs are stocked by small drug shops and community-based distributors, there is a barrier to entry.

Dr. Allgood presented Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) work on PUR, a point-of-use water treatment system (PUR was dicussed in an earlier post). As a flocculant-disinfectant, PUR is able to clean even heavily sedimented (turbid) water – the flocculant causes the sediment to coagulate, while the disinfectant kills harmful organisms. This project has led to 2 siginificantly new business practices for P&G: (1) considering emergency relief as a market, and (2) letting an NGO manage a P&G brand. As a consumer products company, Dr. Allgood indicated a key strength of P&G is understanding people and their relation to products such as PUR. As an example, inside the household, they have observed “water segmentation” – their product is used primarily for the most vulnerable, young children, the elderly, and PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS).

Here is the session abstract:

Because of reduced donor support to developing countries and due to a decrease in development-focused funds from within countries’ own ministries, the private sector is being recognized as an important contributor to realizing reform goals that would achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in healthcare delivery. The objective of this panel is to demonstrate the validity of engaging the private sector in the strategic planning and implementation of health sector reform and to further demonstrate the effective contribution that the private sector has made to-date in realizing health reform goals in developing countries. Panelists will discuss various perspectives regarding the politics and protocols for involving the private sector in the delivery of health services. Illustrative examples will include: Global Development Alliances (GDA) in health; Foundation investments in health; Commercial Sector Investments in health; and Motivating and engaging host country private sector counterparts. The outcome of these discussions should further encourage greater private sector involvement in health sector reform.

Written by Jaspal

November 13, 2006 at 1:42 pm

Health Tech for Humanity: 2006 Tech Award Laureates

techawards.jpgThis Wednesday, Nov 15th, The Tech Awards will be handed out. This is an international awards program that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. There are five categories: Economic Development, Education, Environment, Equality, and Health (full list of nominees). The winner in each category will receive $50,000. Coincidentally two of the five nominees were profiled here in previous posts – Riders for Health for their transportation innovations and Sumitomo for their partnership with the Acumen Fund for anti-malarial bednets. The health laureates are listed below – does anyone care to predict a winner?

(1) Ecovec of Belo Horizonte, Brazil for its development of a faster and more accurate system for monitoring and mapping populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitos to reduce Dengue infections, which afflicts 20 million people per year around the world.
(2) Medical Missions for Children (Global Telemedicine and Teaching Network), of Paterson, NJ for providing videoconference consultations to hospitals around the world and distributing medical educational content via Internet and satellite broadcast.

(3) PointCare Technologies of Marlborough, MA for its streamlined, inexpensive CD4 cell counter which provides HIV/AIDS monitoring for clinics in resource-poor settings.

(4) Riders for Health of Daventry, United Kingdom for mobilizing healthcare personnel in rural African villages by supplying 1200 specially outfitted motorcycles as well as a transportation infrastructure that includes trained mechanics to support the vehicles.

(5) Sumitomo Chemical Co. of Tokyo, Japan for its Olyset long-lasting mosquito bednet for malaria protection.

Written by Aman

November 13, 2006 at 2:30 am

“Google Health”? Diagnosis is a keyword away

Red Herring highlighted a study published in the British Medical Journal yesterday. “How Google is changing medicine” showed that, when the two medically trained authors entered symptoms of an illness into Google, the search engine was able to correctly provide a diagnosis 58 percent of the time.

Drs. Hangwi Tang and Jennifer Hwee Kwoon Ng from the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, wanted to see whether Google could be helpful for doctors in the diagnosis of tough cases. They were astonished to read a piece in the New England Journal of Medicine about a doctor who was able to diagnose a complicated immunodeficiency disorder by typing the information into Google.

“We think Google is likely to be a useful aid in diagnosis … It has the advantage of being easier to use and is freely available,” the doctors wrote in the study. And according to their research, Google is now used more widely than PubMed, a popular medical search engine, to find articles about medical research.


The pair selected 26 cases at random from the case records of the New England Journal of Medicine and chose between three and five symptoms that described each illness. Without looking at the conclusions of the studies, the doctors entered the symptoms as search terms into Google. The doctors then chose the diagnoses that came up most often within the first three pages of the Google search, and compared them to the actual results of each case.


In 15 out of 26 cases, the Google search provided the correct diagnosis for some pretty tough illnesses. For example, Google was able to correctly identify Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, cat scratch disease, and lymphoma. The search engine failed, however, to diagnose pylephlebitis: It settled firmly on cirrhosis.

With search capacity moving to mobile platforms, the potential for this type of clinical second-opinion in areas with limited numbers of healthcare professionals is intriguing. A related model using menu-driven options on phones has been piloted in Kenya according to AllAfrica news (“Kenya: Health tips on your cellphone”) and blogged on NextBillion.

Written by Ben

November 11, 2006 at 10:10 pm

Business Week:”Acumen’s New Model for Third-World Aid”

Today Business Week profiled the Acumen Fund and their focus on developing country solutions. The Acumen Fund (based in New York City) is an interesting organization, they are “a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty”.

Below an advisor to the Acumen Fund says that the charitable money is there, but the solutions are not. I would have to disagree with such a stark statement. The money making solutions may not be there, but the solutions to some major global health problems are certainly there. Not every solution will be sustainable on its own, there are some problems that will need to be funded outright until a particular problem is eradicated or alleviated. I definitely applaud Acumen’s overall approach and their ability to raise capital make a robust attempt to find innovative projects, but let’s be clear about what type of solutions they are pursing – those with a financial return on investment. This is a great thing, but it is a mistake to send the message that solutions are not there. I highly recommend you read this article.

From Business Week, November 10, 2006:
By Jessi Hempel: “Acumen is a leader in the fast-emerging hybrid sector that straddles private industry and nonprofits. Technically a nonprofit, it invests in enterprises in developing countries with the strategy and discipline of a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm. Acumen’s founder is Jacqueline Novogratz, a former banker with an infectious magnetism…Under her leadership, the fund manages $20 million in investments that fall within three portfolios: health, water, and housing. But Acumen’s goal is far larger than successful companies. Says Novogratz: “We’re creating an overall design for how you provide goods and services to poor people.”

“There’s growing interest among investors eager to fund for-profit businesses that have both social and economic impact. Rather, there’s a paucity of creative ideas. “It’s all about innovation,” says CEO Tim Brown of Ideo, who advises Acumen. “The money is there, but the solutions aren’t.”

“Acumen uses classic consumer-focused design methods to solve the problems of poverty…Acumen’s portfolio companies create from the bottom up…”Start with the individual,” says Novogratz. “Build systems from their perspective. Really pay attention, and then see if they can scale.” Plenty of nonprofits have embraced the term “venture philanthropy” in recent years. But while most aspire to new forms of grantmaking, Acumen eschews giving money away. Instead, it buys equity in companies and offers them loans. It made a $600,000 investment in WaterHealth International, which will help the startup expand its franchise model for delivering safe, affordable water to Indian customers.” FULL STORY.

From the Business Week article here are couple of more excerpts from their photo essay on the A to Z anti-malarial bed net solution, the full slide show is availabe at the beginning of the article:

acumen_bednet.jpgAcumen’s most successful company to date is A to Z bednet factory in Tanzania, which makes inexpensive mosquito nets that protect people from malaria. This fall, A to Z will make its final payment on a $325 million loan. Acumen’s investment allowed A to Z to introduce a new kind of anti-malarial bed net that originated from Japanese company Sumitomo Chemical. This net is impregnated with a long-lasting insecticide that lasts for up to five years. A to Z also has found a cheaper way to weave the bed net. This will bring down the cost of production to $5 from $7.


Increasing Production, Creating Jobs: By the end of 2006, A to Z’s bed net production will ramp up to 7 million per year. The nets are currently protecting more than 5 million people in Tanzania. And 2,000 jobs have been created, primarily for women. Right now, most of the nets are purchased by UNICEF and distributed as a part of their aid efforts. Acumen is working with A to Z to distribute the nets through women sales agents, who buy them from A to Z and make a commission by selling the nets in their villages.

Written by Aman

November 11, 2006 at 1:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Public Health Documentary in NYC: RSVP TODAY!

Thanks to Farzaneh for sending this, it looks like a fantastic film. Another testament to the use of video to spread messages about global development, RSVP IS TODAY –


Dear friends and colleagues,

For those of you who know me personally and/or through my work, you know that I have spent several years working tirelessly on a few documentary film projects about Africa while also committing my NYC time to an innovative youth organization called Urban Word NYC which provides after-school programming for inner city youth writers and poets throughout the five boroughs.

I’m happy and excited to announce that I’m finally blending these two passions with a new film project called MYTH OF THE MOTHERLAND that I have wanted to do for at least four years now. The film will follow ten Urban Word youth on a creative writing journey throughout Africa . For five weeks this summer, we will travel to five different countries as the youth meet with African scholars, writers, musicians and activists, creating poetry and art that will help break stereotypes about Africa and Africans for their American youth peers.

Perhaps an experience I had earlier this week will give you a sense of the impact I believe this project may have. On Monday, I screened Kebba Jobarteh and Nduka Amankulor’s film I directed called “We Will Not Die Like Dogs” profiling four African AIDS activists at a big American public health conference in Boston . The response I received from the Africans in the packed 250-person room solidified my belief that the next generation will have a better understanding of global health, development and the responsibility of the U.S. in world affairs if they are part of the dialogue about it, which is basically the premise of the film. Going to Africa has changed my ideas about the world immensely. Now I want to share it with the incredible and talented young people I have grown to love and respect.

I am attaching an invitation for a special cocktail reception that is occurring next Thursday, November 16th in anticipation of our fundraiser on December 12th in NYC. Hosted by Amanda Ward of Radioaktive Films, this reception is basically a call out to people who have great ideas, great contacts and/or great pocketbooks. I have included you on my personal invite list bc I believe you are at least one of them and understand or “get” what it is I am trying to do using the medium of film as my tool.

So, please come out and support this project. If you do not live in NYC, feel free to forward it to your contacts who may have an interest as well…it will be a very good night for networking and inspiration.

Thank you so much. Hope to see you next week!


Written by Aman

November 10, 2006 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Upcoming International Health Conferences & Deadlines

After hearing from more people I realized I missed atleast one conference. Thanks very much for pointing out other global health conferences, if you have further additions please put them in the comments section so people realize additions may have been made. There are a five upcoming conferences that are worthwhile pointing out.

ghc_conf_logo.jpg(1) First, the Global Health Council will be holding their 34th annual meeting next May in Washington DC. The New Investigators In Global Health program (for students and recent graduates) is a fantastic program. I highly recommend it and encourage people to apply, it is a great experience and they do all they can to help fund your entire trip. The deadline is December 1st. The best practices in global health award nomination deadline is February 15.

(2) Second, the Puget Sound Partners for Global Health has now opened registration for their international health conference taking place February 16-18, 2007 in Seattle. Among their partners are the Gates Foundation and PATH. The cost is $35 for students with refunds available until January 19th.

(3) The third conference which has really grown since its inception is being sponsored by Unite for Sight. The 4th annual international health conference is being held at Stanford (April 14-15, 2007) and is focused on innovation, advancement and best practices.


(4) The Pacific Health Summit is being held June 12-14, 2007 in Seattle. The summit goal is to “build a global health model that will prevent, detect, and treat disease”. Unfortunately it is an invitation-only event.

(5) Four Bay Area universities, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCSF and Stanford, will cosponsor the 9th Annual International Health Conference: War, Poverty, and Population on Saturday, March 3, on the UC Berkeley campus. Student registration is $35. I am guessing as we get closer to the date more information will be available on the Berkeley Bixby website.

Written by Aman

November 9, 2006 at 4:40 am

Update: Vaccine Bond Initiative & UN Fight Hunger Video Contest

I have two updates on previous posts:

1) A couple of weeks ago we posted about a new way to raise funds for vaccines. Today Reuters reported that this bond financing mechanism went through. Pienso and the Center for Global Development have also posted about this.

November 7, 2006 Religious leaders, rockers unite for vaccine bond
LONDON (Reuters) – “Investors snapped up a $1 billion bond to fund life-saving vaccines for children in developing countries on Tuesday as central banks, religious leaders and rock stars bought into the first scheme of its kind…The offering was the first leg of an initiative — the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) — which aims to raise funds from bond markets over the next 10 years…’We will ultimately raise an extra $4 billion to deliver life-saving vaccines to children in the poorest countries…This will immunize 500 million children by 2015 saving ten million lives, and help to eradicate polio from the world.” The full story can be found at the link above.

2) The UN really does seem like it is getting hip to internet marketing. The October post on the UN enlisting the internet star Lonleygirl15 for a global anti-poverty video was not their last foray into using the internet to spread their message. It looks like they are having a video contest for one of their campaigns.

I saw this information over at Netsquared where you can read more: “ is a division of the UN World Food Programme set up to help end child hunger by 2015 which is part of the first Millenium Development Goal. They have just launched a viral video contest and are looking for a short, upbeat videos about ending child hunger.”

Written by Aman

November 9, 2006 at 4:08 am

Poor Could Benefit From Simpler TB Vaccine: S.Africa Trial

The South African Mail &Guardian Online news reported two weeks ago that older percutaneous TB vaccination method was just effective as the newer intradermal method which is WHO endorsed. The study was conducted in over 11,000 children in an area with one of the highest rates of TB in the world. The newer method is cheaper, but also requires more skill and trained healthcare workers.

However, “giving governments the choice of method should also make it easier for them to find the funding and to band together to enjoy economies of scale when buying the percutaneous vaccines and tools, driving down the price and luring more manufacturers into the market.”

“The researchers will now approach the WHO and other bodies to amend the international guidelines so that countries can choose the technique that best suits their circumstances.” The full story can be viewed at M&G Online.

Written by Aman

November 8, 2006 at 2:12 am

Water Solution Wins People Choice Awards at Intel-Berkeley Tech Entrepreneurship Challenge

A team of students from School of Engineering at Arizona State University, focusing on Africa, have partnered with a private firm to develop a water from air generator that produces potable water. Winning $20,000 in the Intel-Arizona challenge, the took 3rd place at the Intel-Berkeley challenge where they also picked up the “Peoples Choice Award”.award-asu-watel-sm.jpg

This “device capable of generating LOTS of water from the air. Potable water fit for drinking. It operates on a principle of condensation. When you set a glass of ice water on the table in moderate to high humidity environments the glass “sweats” or condenses water from the air. Condensed water tends to be very pure.” The Sustainable Arizona site has more details on the team and the technology.

From the UC Berkeley website: “In a world where clean, drinkable water is becoming a scarce resource, Watel Solutions has developed a unit that produces potable water by condensing humidity from the air. The unit’s comparative benefit lies in its efficiency in producing high amounts of water per kilowatt, allowing it to be powered by solar energy. The Company’s business strategy is to tap into virgin markets of the world, primarily Africa, where Watel Solutions is providing a cost-effective solution to the problem of quality and scarcity of drinkable water.”A October 27th, Forbes Press Release has full details on the challenge.

Written by Aman

November 6, 2006 at 4:35 am

Sprinkles Micronutrient Innovation – New Round of Financing

Problem: The vast majority of the world’s population suffers from malnutrition that can be severe. The challenge is in figuring out how to deliver micronutrients “that is effective, available, accessible and acceptable in a number of diverse cultural and country settings as a public health strategy”.

Solution: Sprinkles Global Health Initiative


The goal is to reach 50 million children by 2011. And at $2 a packet this is cheaper than the alternatives. In October, Sprinkles was the sponsored charity at the Enterprise 2006 event where it was announced they will receive seed funding from a major venture company in Silicon Valley. Credit for this information goes to Ross Mayfield over at “Markets, Technology & Musings” As he states, “They have already proven the concept. In Mongolia after two years of the program, anemia decreased by 38%…Sprinkles have been provided in 18 countries with distributed local manufacturing through technology transfer…” Further credit goes to Woodrow’s blog for reporting the new round of financing for Sprinkles.


Written by Aman

November 6, 2006 at 3:07 am

“The Right to Sutures” – Paul Farmer’s keynote address at APHA

apha-2006.jpgPaul Farmer gave the second of two keynote addresses at today’s opening of the APHA (American Public Health Association) Annual Meeting – the first was from Helene Gayle, now President and CEO of CARE International. In reporting on his address, I have quoted him as directly as possible, and where appropriate.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Public Health and Human Rights”, and as it is in one of Paul Farmer’s backyards (Boston), he was a well-suited speaker. The overall message was an extension of his 1999 article “Pathologies of power: rethinking health and human rights” (American Journal of Public Health, Vol 89, Issue 10 1486-1496). In short, he argued “prevailing orthodoxies” in public health center around the “crude” concepts of sustainability and cost-effectiveness, while the focus should be on social and economic rights. “[Sustainability and cost-effectiveness] are tools we need, not religion.”

The more practical message was that we need to address more immediate, material concerns, such as food, clean water, drugs, and medical supplies – much of which can be considered “wrap around services”.

“There should be a right to sutures. There should be a right to sterile drapes. There should be a right to anesthesia … We will need gloves, sutures, drapes, and hot, clean water. This is uncharted territory for human rights groups. We here are ready to talk about gender inequality, but to few of us are ready to buy generators, sutures, or [operating room] lamps … [This] may not seem sexy to people commenting on health and human rights.”

I was delighted to hear his talk touch on such “unglamorous” issues as supply chain and procurement.

He is still very committed to his ideology of providing equivalent technology to poor people. While this is certainly the most effective and ethical approach in many cases – as he has demonstrated to the rest of the world – it is unclear that this is always in the best interests of poor people. I argue not from the point of “cost-effectiveness”, but rather of “effectiveness”. Take for example his advocacy for clean water and infant formula in Rwanda. A colleague who is an expert on breastfeeding reported that people at this year’s International AIDS Conference were highly critical of this approach because of the increased potential for infant deaths from diarrheal diseases. Significant, comparative research over the last few years has shown that while formula is effective for PMTCT (prevention of mother to child transmission) of HIV, breastfeeding results in fewer overall infant deaths. One key is the lack of access to clean water, which results in diarrheal disease, while another is the protective nature of the breastmilk itself. Farmer’s response, no doubt, would be that Partners in Health will provide all the clean water necessary. Achieving this for small communities will be difficult, but not impossible – achieving it at a large scale will take considerable time. In the short-term, breastfeeding seems to be a much safer bet.

Several nursing colleagues and I went to dinner in Chinatown, where we discussed Farmer’s talk. The consensus was that Farmer often makes it seem as if nothing positive is being done in the sphere of international health.

Despite some concerns about his ideology, he provided a strong, persuasive, and needed message. His quote from a young Kenyan doctor, lamenting about working conditions and supplies, sums it up best: “I did not go to medical school to become a mortuary attendant.”

Written by Jaspal

November 5, 2006 at 8:18 pm

p2p online banking

Nonprofits promoting microcredit and microfinance (a distinction made clearer to me when I read the recent New Yorker article “Millions for Millions”) are all over the web, but one group out of San Francisco caught my attention on a Frontline World broadcast this week (“Uganda: A little goes a long way”).

San Francisco-based profiles applicant borrowers on their site. Any interested lenders select projects to support at the level they want to give. Similar online efforts for US and UK markets have been available for the past year at and, respectively. The sites’ business model is the most current form of entrepreneurial philanthropy that has grown tremendously with the internet’s ability to wag the long tail of disbursed small donors (or social creditors?).

The for-profit, and its nonprofit analogue,, both provide a marketplace for grantees to pitch projects to donors. The emphasis on clear costs for service outputs (successful repayment is a great benchmark) are at the heart of the new efforts. These philanthropic models bring to mind the old “sponsored child” advertisements we used to see on late night TV.

The innovative element to and other social creditors is the ability to recycle money at the bottom of the pyramid, increasing the money supply to small entrepreneurs and stimulating microeconomic development. It’s heartening to see the entrepreneurial spirit take on new forms. None of these efforts on their own will transform the world, but together they represent a new willingness and ability to engage person-to-person in building cost-effective solutions to daily pressing concerns.

Written by Ben

November 3, 2006 at 8:53 am