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Strategies That Help Grow 

Your Community Healthcare Startup

By: Bolun Li and Gladys Llanes

· Health,Startup

Healthcare has always been a problem around the world. While a lot of people are now starting to build inclusive initiatives on community healthcare, most of them have a hard time sustaining their projects. Unfortunately, some of these initiatives just gave up. With that, we offer these helpful strategies that can help you grow your start-up.

1. Persistence

In 2003, the decade-long civil war in Liberia ended. But the country’s health system was destroyed and very limited capacity remained in the community level. The whole country only had 50 doctors who had to take care of 4 million people. People would die of treatable conditions such as complicated childbirth or malaria, due to the far distance from the closest clinic.

It was really challenging to get any programs running in that situation.If there is anything special to note, it is the persistence in making changes happen. In 2007, a group of civil war survivors and health workers co-founded Last Mile Health, and began Liberia’s first rural public HIV program with only $6,000 seed money.

The vision of Last Mile Health is to “save lives in the world’s most remote communities”. A solid business model is almost impossible to build up in such tough situations, but the initiative has strived to recruit, train, equip, manage and provide lifesaving health services to the grassroots people. The dedicated staff have continued to work despite the Ebola outbreak and provided essential assistance for people with medical emergencies. If you have similar passion and run a health initiative, your situation would be much better than what Last Mile has faced.

2. Business acumen

Healthcare is a kind of service that can bring profits to healthcare practitioners even if they work for the low-income population. In some cases, an appropriate business model could scale up essential services toward universal healthcare coverage.

One Family Health is an innovator that combines micro-enterprise and franchise models to provide qualified nurses with a chance to have their own clinic and improve their economic status.

One Family Health support franchisees with capacity development for business acumen and other financing skills. The business model created largely incentivized trained nurses to provide quality healthcare services and essential medicines.

3. Public-Private Partnership

It is difficult to scale up your health start-up with a single effort. In fact, resource mobilization from public-private partnership has been an increasing trend. Possible Health is just the perfect example. Started by a young Peace Corps volunteer of US to Nepal, Possible Health has adopted an integrated approach to connect community healthcare workers with government hospitals and clinics, which ensured high-quality and affordable healthcare from hospital to home. An individual can get all kinds of healthcare services covered with less than 25 USD per year.

Possible Health has partnered with Nepal’s Ministry of Health and received over 900,000 USD from the government. Its proven model has treated over 500,000 patients since 2008. The partnership with the government is based on both the proof of efficiency and the efforts to build good partnerships with the public sector.

4. Design your product

There are still millions of people in the world living without in-home toilets. A few good options exist for rural people living in the remote areas. The lack of qualified hygienic conditions can result in various diseases potentially. If you have a big dream to be part of the solution and have some creative skills, you can try to design your own product!

One of the examples you can refer to is the Clean Team, initiated by IDEO.org and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP). Clean Team is an integrated sanitation solution that delivers and maintains toilets in subscribers’ homes. The main component of Clean Team is a custom-designed stand-alone toilet, but the uniqueness comes from its human-centered design. Clean Team works with partners to fully understand the sanitation situations and behavioral factors, then design the system that comforts a particular population most. An integrated delivery, removal and maintenance system was born out of Clean Team and it now serves 4500 people in Ghana currently.

We hope that with these strategies, you are now set to go and build your start-up. Moreover, at the end of the day, never forget the reason you’re doing the work that you do, and that is to provide better access to healthcare which is a human right after all.

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