Designing Health and Innovation Program in Low & Middle-Income Countries










Two of our dear partners, JDC-GRID and MindsetPCS, recently shared a fascinating report on how to best design and promote health innovation programs in low- & middle-income countries. Promoting health and well-being is an increasingly important aspect of international development. Though progress has been made in reaching UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 (To ensure healthy lives and promote the well-being for all at all ages), persistent inequalities and barriers to quality, accessible, safe, and universal health care services continue in Low-Income Countries (LICs) and Middle-Income Countries (MICs). This report identifies five core health pain points in LICs and MICs for those working in the field of public health to focus on. These include the fact that specific geographic regions bear the highest disease burdens worldwide, many healthcare systems are ill-equipped, the issue of understaffed healthcare systems and the shortage of well-trained healthcare workers, the general lack of access to healthcare services, and the unaffordability of healthcare services.These pain points offer opportunities for health innovation to provide enhanced patient experience, improved population health outcomes, and reduced or controlled health care costs. The size of the healthcare markets in many LICs and MICs are considerable. However, utilizing private healthcare services often places people further into poverty; thus, creative solutions are needed to push not only quality healthcare but safe and equitable services as well. The report looks at two case studies, Ethiopia and South Africa, as potential locations for healthcare investment and innovation. Broadening the scope beyond these two locations, the report identifies two categories of gaps and challenges associated with bringing health innovation to adoption and scale in LICs and MICs. The first are the structural digital gaps that are inherent to LICs and MICs, such as limited infrastructures, disparities in digital access, and a lack of affordability of technology. The second category incorporates the process barriers relating to the way innovations and programs are conceptualized and implemented, including contextualization, or a limited understanding of on-the-ground realities and needs; a failure to coordinate and partner with all necessary actors; and a strict following of the traditional linear innovation path that focuses on solutions rather than actual needs and opportunities. To address some of these barriers to implementation the report highlights a paradigm shift from product innovation to “service innovation,” whereby innovators consider not only the technological solution but the entire service delivery system and all the interacting elements within it. Israeli innovators are uniquely positioned to enter the growing health innovation market. This is largely due to its history of robust R&D investment and the legacy of the country’s scientific breakthroughs. 42 out of 250 active startups in Israel were associated with products or processes relevant for health care in LICs and MICs, specifically relating to themes of primary health care, telemedicine, COVID-19, non-communicable diseases, communicable diseases, maternal and child health, mental health, humanitarian health, and cross-cutting solutions. However, innovators in Israel will have to contend with countering VC’s lack of appetite, navigating a variety of potentially conflicting mindsets, and adjusting the “startup nation discourse” to apply to LICs and MICs by abandoning the linear innovation path. The report ends with eleven recommendations for integrating and adopting health innovations in LICs and MICs. These include maintaining “demand-pulled” verses “innovation-pushed” approaches.

Read the full report here.

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