Living through a global pandemic has already driven dramatic shifts in the healthcare industry, and more shifts are underway. How do we ensure everyone has access to care? What do resilient healthcare systems look like? And how can we shift more power to the communities these systems seek to serve?
Social entrepreneurs are challenging us to think outside the traditional health clinic — with creative solutions to decentralize care, equip community health workers, and reconnect human health with our natural ecosystems. At the Ashoka Changemaker Summit, Ashoka’s Yeleka Barrett, Making More Health global healthcare partnership manager, speaks with Neo Hutiri, founder of Technovera, Dorica Dan, Founder of the National Alliance for Rare Diseases in Romania, and David Strelneck, founder of Nourish^n. You can watch the full conversation here.
Revolutionizing access to care
As a patient in South Africa, Neo Hutiri experienced hours-long waits to simply pick up chronic medication. He also saw how inaccessible clinics could be. When Neo introduced Smart Lockers, a digitally controlled locker system that allows patients to access their medication with a simple PIN sent to their mobile device, wait time shrunk from 3 hours to 30 seconds.
Neo’s goal is for patients to manage their own health. Focusing on prevention and early diagnosis, community healthcare workers can play a key role in close-up care that pharmacists simply can’t cover. This paradigm will center communities, not facilities. He explains more:
Tech can help put the patient in control, Neo says. To change the paradigm from “sick care” to “wellbeing,” patients must be the primary custodians of their own health.
Bridging gaps across the system
People with rare diseases are often overlooked by the healthcare system in Romania (and many other places). Patients need integrated care, but health services aren’t working together. At The National Alliance for Rare Diseases in Romania, Dorica and her team are bridging the gaps, and creating ways to connect patients in rural communities with care. The ultimate goal: drive policy change. Dorica explains the approach:
The power of the local network
When building health solutions, start near the patient’s home, says Dorica. That way, community support networks (where people exchange knowledge, best practices, and ideas) can find solutions that will help the patient and improve collective health, too. The approach can also help us reimagine healthcare for those with disabilities, chronic disease, or anybody else in need of care.
To connect the dots between their work, Nourish^n brought social entrepreneurs and community participants together in the U.S. state of New Mexico. By the end of their two days together, the community members had stepped up with incredible new ideas. And three years later, 11 new initiatives in the Navajo nation had been born.
Let the people innovate!
As David reminds us, the best solutions are developed on the ground, not a far-off office. He advocates a non-prescriptive approach: Provide resources, put wellbeing over profit, and don’t try to control the outcome.
What does “one health” mean?
Social entrepreneurs are not only coming up with new health solutions, they’re also pushing us to rethink what “health” really means. David says we must integrate the ecosystems where we live. Humanity’s wellbeing is inseparable from the wellbeing of the environment, plants, animals, and everything around us. Through the concept of the “nourishment economy,” he is shifting the paradigm from human health to “one health,” and encouraging local action on behalf of ecosystems.
Health isn’t just physical
Wellness has many dimensions, and all are interconnected. Dorica encourages us to not neglect the emotional, psychological, occupational, intellectual, financial, social, environmental and spiritual sides to health.
About the Ashoka Changemaker Summit
The Changemaker Summit “A New Togetherness” is Ashoka’s yearly global gathering. It connects a vast community of social innovators and leaders from business and philanthropy to celebrate inspiring solutions, learn, and collaborate towards systemic change. Tune in every Thursday through December for conversations on Planet and Climate, Equity, and more. The culminating event on December 2 will be hosted in Turin, Italy. More information at https://acms.ashoka.org/