The Trailblazers for Good Q&A Series sits down with the most world shaking individuals leading the movement to align impact, profit and purpose. Here we pick the brains of top social entrepreneurs to learn first hand from their stunning accomplishments, utter failures, and stiff challenges in leading the revolution of doing well by doing good. Join us as we explore the collective consciousness that drives and inspires these individuals
Josh Nesbit is the Co-Founder and CEO of Medic Mobile.
Can you tell us a little bit about Medic Mobile and what inspired you to start it?
When I met Dickson Mtanga in rural Malawi in 2007, he was walking 35 miles to a hospital every week to hand-deliver updates on patients living with HIV in his village. As a community health worker, he had received some training and was responsible for caring for his community. He was committed to his work, but the reality was that he was disconnected from the hospital and its resources.
This is where we started our work in 2008 — at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Malawi, where patients were walking or oxcarting 60 miles or more to access doctors. Dickson and 100 of his fellow community health workers used mobile phones and simple text messaging to connect to the hospital; they tracked new symptoms and doubled the number of patients being treated for tuberculosis in just six months. They also saved thousands of hours of travel and work time, and the hospital began responding to emergencies.
Medic Mobile is a nonprofit technology company that creates connected and coordinated health systems that save more lives. We’ve created a number of mobile technologies that health workers and patients need, including easy-to-use medical record systems and mobile SIM applications. We now work with more than 30 partners in 15 countries to improve how healthcare is delivered in extremely low-resource settings.
Can you give us an example of how your mobile technology tools are being used in low resource areas?
We used text messaging for emergency response at a much greater scale during the 4636 project after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Working with a number of partners, we set up a text message system allowing anyone in Haiti to text in their need and location. Every message was mapped, translated, and turned into a report for first responders and aid organizations on the ground.
What’s the biggest challenge you are facing in implementing your programs in developing communities?
The biggest challenge is knowing that we aren’t meeting demand. Our projects include stock monitoring in rural Ethiopia, vaccination tracking in India, support for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Malawi, and streamlining test result delivery for cervical cancer screening in Nicaragua — every new partner or project makes it clear that there’s more work to be done. We can’t let that paralyze us; all we can do is forge ahead and find new resources.
What other organizations or ideas in health technology for global development excite you the most?
There’s a lot to be excited about. Global Cycle Solutions and ToughStuff are innovating quickly in the energy space, creating low-cost solar panels and bicycle chargers… access to power is crucial.
I also think that low-cost diagnostics have a lot of potential — the LUCAS imaging technique being developed at UCLA is set to revolutionize testing for HIV, TB, CD4, and more. Diagnostic lab-in-backpacks from the Beyond Traditional Borders team at Rice University package multiple innovations, which is a badly needed approach.
How can our readers help you push forward your mission?
The easiest way to help health workers and patients is to donate your old cell phone. Through our Hope Phones campaign, we can give your old phones a new life on the frontline of global health. We provide free shipping, and earn funding for every phone that’s recycled. We then use the funding to purchase new, appropriate phones for health workers.
Hope Phones is a great way to engage your family, community, or company and contribute to global health efforts. If you do donate or start a drive, we’d love to hear from you in the comments here, on Facebook, or via Twitter!