Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Doc-in-a-Box/Rx Box – A Novel Idea by the Council on Foreign Relations?


The solar-powered Doc-in-a-box is designed to be staffed by one medic and offer 1,800 people each year primary care and screening for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and malaria. The prototype cost $4,000 to build, but the council estimates that mass production could cut that price by half…Garrett has ambitious plans for Doc-in-a-Box. Adopted widely, she thinks such a system could help eliminate some of the wastefulness from international health services…(Link)

For those of you who reached the end of the Laurie Garrett article, “The Challenge of Global Health“, you saw the “Doc in a Box” concept. This is a pretty cool idea and it is great that the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is investigating this. Above is a picture from the CFR website. What I found a bit funny was the following quote from their website:

“Two years ago, Laurie Garrett came up with a conceptual framework for a project (Doc-in-a-Box) that endeavored to retrofit shipping containers into health clinics that could be delivered to under-served communities around the world.” Link

Using shipping containers for various purposes in low income settings is hardly a novel idea. I was unable to find any mention of how this concept was arrived upon, nor did I seen any references on the CFR website to the numerous other organizations that have discussed this general concept. The RPI University website can be seen here. I still think it is an interesting idea and I applaud CFR for offering a solution to their call for more investment in infrastructure/systems… but it would be nice to see credit given to previous attempts or other groups who have worked on this issue. So in the spirit of collaboration, building on what others have done, and making things better, below you will find several links and pictures to this very idea of using shipping containers for various purposes. Enjoy!

1) Overview:

Check out this WorldChanging post from August 2004 on Shipping Container Urbanism and this March 2003 post on using containers as housing shelters. Also for cool design and architecture for various issues (Katrina, Tsunami, and a Tanzanian Medical Center) see the Architecture for Humanity website.

2) From 2000, an MIT project using shipping containers for various solutions, including health/telemedicine (Link). For more detailed information, you can see Ari Adler’s masters thesis on this issue (PDF Link).


3) Again from Architecture for Humanity and their Design like you Give a Damn book showcased some similar ideas. The following are snapshots of their contest for a “Mobile Clinic to Combat HIV/AIDS” (Link). Click on the link to see the full protoype and design, better than that, go check out the book.



4) From 2003, check out Vodacom’s phone shop (thanks Dweep for point this out) (Link). Also see BBC News.


5) Green design cargotecture – Link


6) A Soweto conveince story from an August 2004 NY Times piece (Africans Find a Refuge in Cast-Off ‘Big Boxes’):


7) YouTube – UK Container City from 2001.





Written by Aman

February 8, 2007 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Global Health

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