Solving complex global health challenges calls for innovation in the many domains that shape current thinking about the field: medicine, economic development, public health, product engineering, anthropology, design thinking, and the emerging science of healthcare delivery. But what’s often missing in the mix is entrepreneurship.
A new breed of entrepreneurs is making headway in global health. Some are challenging the status quo by launching new ventures while others work with public, private and non-profit organisations. By developing novel applications of technology and analytics, improving processes and starting businesses, these innovators are developing brand new solutions to global health challenges. Creating clinically effective offerings that people choose over existing alternatives requires a deep understanding of relationships, dynamics and context. Doing this with an eye to improving the quality, sustainability and reach of healthcare in emerging markets calls for innovators who are ready to tackle the complexities of global health.
It’s important to provide education and training for this new breed of entrepreneurs because the wrong kind of failure comes at too high a cost. Too much pivoting, and public trust is eroded. A misstep may even harm patients. Innovators need to be creative and agile, but they also need to invest in the groundwork, a combination of imperatives that can be difficult to follow when building a business.
Think back to your last project. Was it set up to maximize learning? Did you uncover valuable insights along the way? Did you deliver what you set out to? And once it was over, did your team reflect, or did you move straight to the next thing?
A systematic method for managing your projects can set up your team for useful epiphanies at every step. In the end, it can help you to create better deliverables with more lasting and further-reaching impact.
Picture yourself going to the doctor. You arrive by car, park nearby, and when you enter a receptionist greets you and checks your information on a computer. You’re led into a comfortable, well-lit office; the cabinets are fully stocked. Your records are on hand. The nurses and doctors are well educated and knowledgeable, their equipment at the ready. If they can’t help you, they refer you to someone who can.
Now try to picture the same scene in sub-Saharan Africa. If you’re wealthy, your experience may be similar. But if you’re not, it’s altogether different. The roads are unpaved and riddled with potholes; it might take all day to get to the clinic by public transport. The queue to see the doctor is long–an eight-hour wait is not unusual–and there’s nowhere to sit. You might have to bribe someone to be seen. The electricity is unreliable; the clinic’s supplies are running low. Your medical records are incomplete, perhaps even non-existent. The doctors and nurses, while trained and dedicated, are not up-to-date on current treatments, and lack access to the tools they need.
My new book,* Parenting Your Child with Autism, is, in many ways, the book I wish I’d received all those years ago when my oldest son was first diagnosed. In the ten years since then, I’ve come to realize that my MIT training in science and management can help parents of children with autism. My co-author, Dr. Blaise Aguirre, and I packed this book with information and advice that we think will help parents choose the right treatments, educational approaches, and developmental goals for their child.
Let’s not sugarcoat this: parenting a child with autism will never be easy. Even with our book in hand, parents will still struggle with making tough choices amid incomplete information, limited funds and time to try new and different things, and not enough sleep.