Raj Panjabi’s big idea for rural health care
Community Health Academy
I wish that you will help me recruit the largest army of community health workers the world has ever known, by creating the Community Health Academy, a global platform to train, empower and connect.
A billion people around the world lack access to health care, simply because they live too far from a doctor or clinic. For them, getting medical treatment means traveling for hours or even days -- often on foot -- and many die from treatable diseases. But Raj Panjabi, founder of Last Mile Health, has created a model to solve this problem, starting with the most remote communities of Liberia. The key: training and employing community health workers -- individuals who learn to diagnose common medical issues and perform interventions. With the Community Health Academy, Raj is creating a platform to train, empower and connect community health workers across the world. The academy will give access to the best digital education resources, create a global network for innovation exchange, and advocate on the government level to ensure community health workers are a cornerstone of health-care plans. Because if properly supported, community health workers can transform access to care in remote areas and protect against pandemic outbreaks.
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Community health heroes
Raj Panjabi grew up in Liberia, but at age nine, his family fled a devastating civil war and relocated to the United States. He studied hard, and in 2005 returned to his native country as a medical student. He was shocked to find a health-care system in shambles. Only 51 doctors remained to treat a population of four million.
Raj founded Last Mile Health to expand access to health services for those living in Liberia’s most remote regions. The nonprofit partners with the government to recruit, train, equip and employ community health care workers, empowering them to provide a wide range of services. In 2016, Last Mile Health deployed 300 community health workers, who conducted more than 42,000 patient visits and treated nearly 22,000 cases of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea in children. The organization also helped tackle the Ebola epidemic in southeastern Liberia by assisting the government of Liberia in its response and training 1,300 health workers to prevent the spread of the disease.
Last Mile Health has created a model that can be replicated elsewhere. As the winner of the 2017 TED Prize, Raj is creating the Community Health Academy to empower hundreds of thousands of community health workers across the world.
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From the field
Community health workers for Last Mile Health travel far to reach villages in Grand Gedeh County in eastern Liberia. Reaching remote communities often involves long hikes or traveling by motorbike.
Armed with a stethoscope and medical supplies, community health workers for Last Mile Health provide primary, pediatric and maternal health care.
- NPR: A doctor's TED Prize wish
- Wired: $1 million for health care tech
- Fast Company: Prize winner brings care
- Business Insider: Harvard doctor's project
- NPR: A doctor goes the extra mile
- TIME: TED Prize winner is Raj Panjabi
- Wired UK: Last Mile Health wins Prize
- Quartz: An experiment in Liberia
- Fortune: Cracking the last mile problem