Posts Tagged Africa

Design Thinking for the Underserved – at Health Tech Forum Innovation Conference

At Health Technology Forum, innovation conference on April, 19th 2013, a panel addressed the challenges and opportunities in building design thinking in planning technology solutions for the underserved.  The panel shared examples and case studies from their work, around the world.  Healthcare delivery, in low resource settings, can be particularly challenging.  The panelists demonstrated how innovative design solutions addressed key pain points, and enhanced quality of care in these situations.  Seema Handu, Managing Director at Children’s Global Health Initiative, moderated the panel and shared about the work done by CGHI in various parts of the world, with its mission to enable sustainable global health.  Handu shared examples of work like the Solar Suitcase

Solar suitcase headed for Africa with wecareso...

Solar suitcase headed for Africa with (Photo credit: veritatem) which is affordable, cost effective, light weight, efficient, safe, portable suitcase that can be easily assembled, and has been used with increasing demand, to bring light into the hospitals, and to power small medical instruments, in rural Africa.


Dr. Andre Muelenaer, CMO at Pediatric Medical Device Institute, said, design thinking for the underserved, requires considerations of the needs of the community and the needs of the patient.  He and his team often visit the developing regions of the world, and perform needs assessment, to ensure that unnecessary equipment is not dumped there, without consideration of the requirements and resources.  Glen Moy is Senior Program Officer with California HealthCare Foundation.  Each year, the foundation gives away $40 million, in grants.  In reviewing the grant proposals, the foundation considers if the solution is targeted for the right problem, and if it is patient centered.   Foundation gives many small grants, to nurture early stage ideas, said Moy.


Dennis Boyle, Partner and Founding Member with IDEO, shared about the design thinking approach at IDEO that is human centered, and balances understanding of the community, business, and technology factors.  Above all, it is based on understanding people’s needs.  Boyle shared IDEO success stories including solving urban sanitation problem in Ghana and giving home trained, otherwise poorly qualified doctors in Bihar, India, information and access to some basic tools and access to doctors in major hospitals, in big cities.  Boyle also talked about understanding culture and beliefs and behavior patterns of the community.  For instance, while clean cook stoves were a necessity in Tanzania, and though many families acquired them, they rarely used them, opting for chopping down the wood instead.  They were gradually educated how clean cook stoves were safer, easy to care, and healthier, in order to help the people move from acquisition of cook stoves to actual use.



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Solar Power in a Suitcase

Dr. Laura Stachel and Hal Aronson, co-founders of We Care Solar, talked about the story behind their invention of Solar Suitcase.  Dr. Stachel gave the background of enormous challenges that women experience in delivering a healthy baby, often in the absence of light, in the developing world. In many parts of Africa for instance, many women try to give birth at home. Often after experiencing difficulty they try to collect money to bring her to the hospital. Many hospitals in rural areas have extremely limited electricity. A staggering 358,000 women died last year, in childbirth. In Africa, in countries like Sierra Leon, 1 in 8 women die in childbirth due to preventable conditions like hemorrhage, infection, obstructed labor, and eclampsia.  Many of these women are poor, are likely to have received little prenatal care and they end up in hospitals that are not well equipped, with meager electricity and water supplies.

During her visits, Dr. Stachel observed that many of the preventable problems occur due to lack of reliable electricity. Women with obstetrical complications were unable to obtain life-saving care, despite the availability of trained medical personnel, frequently because they were not able to use light and electricity-dependent equipment. She and her husband, Hal Aronson, found a non-profit, We Care Solar and developed a portable solar electric system called the Solar Suitcase to address this challenge.  Anyone traveling to a region with lack of electricity, can carry it with them and set it up in a matter of hours.

Hal Aronson shared the simple technology of Solar Suitcase. While many large solar systems often cost up to $200,000 to install and need regular maintenance, the Solar Suitcase concept is guided by principles of affordability, cost-effectiveness, portability, light weight, safety, ruggedness, and efficiency. This suitcase only gives 40 watts of power but if one can imagine sipping power rather than guzzling it, this is extremely effective. Included in the suitcase are regular instruments that can be powered effectively with the suitcase like Fetal Doppler, Head Lamps, Battery, and Battery Charger. This ready to go system can be installed within couple of hours and requires little maintenance, and is portable. It is safe to use with full overcurrent protection, is scalable, pre-wired, modular, expandable, and affordable.

Currently Stachel and Aronson are studying the multitude of positive impacts of Solar Suitcase that go beyond saving lives. Both the women and their doctors experience a feeling of greater calm and safety with the lights on! Requests for their product are streaming in from many parts of the world and Stachel and Aronson are looking for collaborations and partners, in this venture. Among other things, they are looking for similarly affordable and efficient infant warmer for premature infants. In this day and age, no woman should be deprived of the most basic care during the most natural of human behaviors; child birth! We Care Solar has committed to changing the staggering statistics of child birth deaths.

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