Apr 06, 2022
Can we reimagine a world where clean air, water, and food are available to all? Where economies are focused on health and well-being? Where cities are livable and people have control over their health and the health of the planet?
These are the questions posed by the U.N. for World Health Day on April 7. They encourage us to take a broad view of what contributes to health — and how we can take action to improve it.
Many of our Elevate Prize winners are focused on health, from the societal impact of Detroit Justice Center’s fairer cities program to the one-to-one personal impact of Friendship Bench’s unique approach to therapy. Whether they’re helping people access healthcare through biometric solutions like Simprints or delivering healthcare via telemedicine like Sehat Kahani, their examples show us what’s possible when we address the whole picture of health from different angles and perspectives.
Two of this year’s prize winners, Krista Donaldson, founder of Equalize Health, and Aparna Hedge, founder of Armman, are on a mission to build a world where everyone can access quality medical treatment, so people will not suffer and die from preventable or treatable conditions. Both organizations have a particular focus on maternal and newborn health, and each takes a different approach to achieving their goals.
Arpana’s work is rooted in her experiences as a gynecologist in India. “During my residency, I saw how pervasive systemic problems led to loss of lives that are completely preventable,” she says. “Pregnancy is not a disease. Childhood is not an ailment. Dying due to a natural life event is not acceptable. We were doing heroics in the hospital, but I realized that’s not enough. If I really want to impact lives, I have to go into the community. So that’s where I started.”
Krista starts with problem solving, which she attributes to her background in design. “I love design,” she says. “That’s where I did my training. And those are the skills I can use to learn about people and help solve their challenges. For example, a doctor in rural India told us he was putting babies out in the sun because there was no treatment for jaundice. So we talked to advisers who confirmed it was an issue. And then we went to hospitals [where staff] showed us they either didn’t have phototherapy devices, or they had homemade phototherapy devices, or they were putting babies out in the sun, or they simply had to refer them to another hospital. And we designed a device to address that specific need.”
Whether inspired by design training or medical experience, both Krista and Aparna have been able to make a powerful impact. Equalize Health has treated over 1.4 million patients with their products, and Armman has almost 26.5 million beneficiaries of its services, training, and care.
As we meditate on World Health Day, it’s empowering to know that whatever our skills, we have the ability to make a difference. And inspiring to hear advice from our winners on where and how to start: