Stephanie Meier, Ravi Chhatpar and I are representing frog on the ground in Kenya and Rwanda to learn more about a very harsh reality: Rwanda and Kenya experience an infant mortality rate that is eight to ten times greater than that of the U.S. The top six causes are all related to respiratory failure, and in many cases these deaths are avoidable if patients receive proper ventilation and oxygen. To address this, we’re designing a business that will provide rural hospitals and health centers with access to medical oxygen, so these avoidable deaths can be dramatically reduced.
We will spend half of our time in Kenya, accompanied by several colleagues from the Center for Public Health and Development (CPHD). With their help, and with the help of The Access Project in Rwanda, we’re meeting with an impressive lineup of health care professionals all over the two countries. With equipment and funding from the GE Foundation, and support from UNICEF and Assist International, we’ll pilot this business at one location in each country, learn from our mistakes, make improvements, and scale the model across other regions over the course of the next few years.
To accomplish this, we’ll spend many weeks conducting research in the hospitals, health centers, and other facilities that make up the public health care system to understand the need for oxygen and what’s needed to make oxygen demand grow. We’ll then come up with a business model that can satisfy these conditions in a way that is safe, sustainable, and capable of growing. After one week, here’s what we’ve learned so far:
As our SUV pulled out of Siaya I turned to take one last look at the facility. Chipped paint, muddy walkways, and empty supply cabinets are no match for the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the health care professionals who work here. It’s truly remarkable the impact they can make in spite of the challenging conditions. I can only hope we’re half as clever in our approach to oxygen.