Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Archive for October 2008

Happy Halloween!

Text "TOT" to "UNICEF" (864233) and donate $5

This year—for the first time—you can Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF with your mobile phone. Just text the word “TOT” to 864233 (UNICEF) to make a $5 donation ($5 charge will be on your next bill) and help UNICEF save kids’ lives.

Here’s a bit of background on Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF from Wikipedia.

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is a fund-raising program for children sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Started on Halloween, 1950 as a local event in a Philadelphia suburb, the program historically involves the distribution of small orange boxes by schools to trick-or-treaters, in which they can solicit small change donations from the houses they visit.[1][2][3] Millions of children in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, and Hong Kong participate in Halloween-related fund-raising events for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, and the program has raised over US$188 million worldwide.[4]

Written by Ben

October 31, 2008 at 10:04 am

Posted in Global Health

M-Money Maturing

Russell Southwood had a short story (full report at on Kenyan banks crying foul with the rapid expansion of mobile money credits acting profitably as current account institutions without the same regulatory oversight.  From Southwood’s emailed summary:

“Currently, the two leading mobile phone service providers – Zain and Safaricom – are offering money-transfer services in the country under Sokotele and M-Pesa brands respectively… To avert undue competition with the banking fraternity … M-Pesa and Sokotele services have to meet the capitalisation requirement as stipulated in the Banking Act. According to the Act, a deposit taking institution should maintain a minimum capitalisation of Ksh250 million ($3.5 million). This is however expected to double come December next year before hitting Ksh1 billion ($14.2 million) by 2010 after capitalisation requirements were amended in this financial year’s budget.”

How small is too small for regulation?  As clear from Kenya, small transactions at scale can leverage significant economic activity and worry the big bank competition.

The question was raised elsewhere this week.  The World Affairs Council of Northern California and UC Berkeley are holding a roundtable dinner next Wednesday with space reserved for UCB students if they address, in 150 words, some of the industry challenges as microfinance and m-money mature.  So any UCB students reading this post, check out BalancingAct for a few ideas.  A few choice subjects:

– When is a bank account a bank account?
– Does the market want mobile phone enabled financial services?
– What’s makes a successful customer business model interface?

The growth of the mobile services in microfinance has been breathtaking and defining the space where traditional banking, microfinance and mobile services intersect will continue to be a challenge as the technology matures and demand continues to grow.

Written by Ben

October 17, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Healthcare in the Emirates: Oasis Hospital Case Study

Guest Post: Khizer Hussain
Aman has been kind enough to give me space on his blog to write about my experiences in charting healthcare system evolution in the United Arab Emirates.  Through my firm, Shifa Consulting, I have launched a strategic planning and business plan development project for a small Christian missionary hospital in the Oasis town of Al Ain in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.  This engagement has offered me insight into the evolution of health policy in this emirate and the growing challenges that it and the emirate of Dubai face.  Thanks for the opportunity and I encourage your comments!


I have recently come back from a client trip to Al Ain in the Abu Dhabi emirate. Al Ain is a sleepy oasis town tucked away two hours south of the glitz and glam of Dubai and a similar distance from the richest city on the planet, Abu Dhabi.

In the late 1990s, the Emirates began privatizing healthcare, largely to increase access for expatriates, which make up 85% of the population (70% in Al AIn).  Two years ago, the emirate of Abu Dhabi launched a bold program to insure universal insurance coverage for all residents: expatriates would have mandated employer coverage and nationals would have government-paid insurance.  My client has seen their inpatient insurance coverage rates hike up from 29% in January 2008 to 96% by August.  The government is hoping that the widespread insurance market will do three main things:

  1. Increase competition between public and private hospitals.  Until very recently, nationals would only go to public hospitals (if they wanted free care) and expats would only visit private hospitals (unless they had a life-threatening situation which expanded access to the secondary and tertiary public hospitals).
  2. Reduce costs.  Increased competition, it is believed, will expand the network of services and drive down costs.
  3. Raise quality.  The advent of insurance introduces coding rigor, which leads to the compilation of claims data that can be analyzed for medical efficacy, among other things.

In addition to insurance reform, the UAE has begun to revamp its care policies which have led to the nearly $2B per year expenditure in medical tourism.  Moral hazard has run amok as nationals have gone abroad for care, often for services which are offered domestically.  Perverse financial incentives (such as $10,000 per diem discretionary spending budgets for patients’ families) have been a chief driver of these costs.

An Inter-Faith Oasis

was the first hospital in the entire country.  It started at the behest of the ruler of the nation, Sheikh Zayed bin Al Nahyan, fifty years ago when infant mortality rates were 50% and maternal mortality rates were 35%.  Today, Sheikh Mohammad, his son acknowledges that, “We were dying as a people before [Oasis Hospital] came.”  The population of the city at the time was 1800: now it is over 600,000.  The Mission of the hospital can be recited by any employee: To provide an international standard of quality healthcare and services to the communities in which we serve by representing the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.  A colleague of mine from the States thought that it was incredibly odd (and foolish) to advise a Christian hospital in the midst of a majority Muslim Arab landscape, but ten years ago I had the pleasure of working for the YMCA of East Jerusalem in a very similar Christian-Muslim backdrop.  I have been quite humbled by both experiences.  Today, Oasis Hospital is a very trusted member of the community with burqa-clad women coming all the way from Oman to deliver there because their mothers and their grandmothers delivered there.  My work is to help them think through the operational implications of growth and added competition and the investments in people, technology, and teaching that they will need to make to expand from a largely women and children’s hospital to something much more substantial in heft.

Oasis is a part of CURE International whose missionary hospitals spread across nearly a dozen countries.

Written by Aman

October 14, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Global Health

Vote TODAY! International Medical Corps and the Members Project

The International Medical Corps (IMC) contacted me to encourage people to vote (for them of course!) for the American Express Members Project. A couple of hundred votes would make a $200k difference for them! The five projects left are:

1. IMC
3. Kiva
4. Alzheimers Association

Most of these certainly have some sort of global health impact and I would encourage you to cast your vote. We these sorts of things I sometimes struggle with voting when I don’t know the organizations that well. On the one hand large organizations probably have access to a plethora of funding streams so why do they need more money on the other hand, well known or brand organizations seem to be the most trusted. Clearly this is simplistic and there are many factors to consider. In any case, thanks to IMC for contacting me, they seem passionate about their cause, here is more information on them:

International Medical Corps, is in the final 5 of the American Express Members Projects. “Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children” was chosen out of 1,190 projects and is now eligible to receive up to $1.5 million to help feed hungry and malnourished children, but I really need your help to let everyone know to vote for us. We are currently in 4th place and are just a couple of hundred votes out of 3rd. The difference between 3rd & 4th place is $200k. Imagine how many children we could help with that amount?

Written by Aman

October 13, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Global Health

Being Witness: TED on James Nachtwey

“I have been a witness, and these pictures are
my testimony. The events I have recorded should
not be forgotten and must not be repeated.”

-James Nachtwey-

Only time for a quick post, this from TED:
This is an important story that has been documented over the last two years by renowned photojournalist James Nachtwey.  In 2007, Nachtwey won the TED Prize, an initiative of the TED Conference, which grants three extraordinary individuals one wish to change the world. Winners are given one hundred thousand dollars in seed money, and individuals within the TED community and the world at large participate in making the wish come true.

Nachtwey wished for help in breaking a news story in a way that demonstrates the power of news photography in the digital age.   On October 3, Nachtwey’s work will be simultaneously revealed  online, disseminated through numerous media channels, and projected on monuments and public buildings throughout the world.

See TED Story here

Written by Aman

October 2, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Posted in Global Health