Innovation and the art of solving health care challenges

Sep 25 · 4 min read

One of VillageReach’s values is Innovation, where we believe creativity and fearless exploration foster lasting change. VillageReach has developed and refined an approach of co-creating innovative solutions in the delivery of health products and services, integrating solutions with proven impact into the health system, and ensuring governments and their partners are prepared to sustain them over time.

As with all innovations, it starts with a challenge, such as: How can a solution address the barriers to health care when families live far from health centers? In remote and rural communities in Malawi, receiving antenatal care and information for pregnant women, or getting access to pediatric health care and information can mean traveling up to 5 kilometers or farther by foot to the nearest health center. The right solution would solve for distance challenges and potentially decrease maternal and child mortality rates — because accurate information leads to informed health decisions.

Girls walking on a rural road in Malawi. VillageReach photo by Jodi-Ann Burey.

Beyond distance barriers, financial barriers can also impact the ability for women and children to get the care they need. To address both of these issues and more, on September 23rd world leaders committed to the United Nations Political Declaration on universal health coverage (UHC) with a comprehensive set of goals to advance UHC efforts in primary health care. The World Health Organization’s news release says that U.N. Member States committed to realizing advancements that include, “mechanisms to ensure no one suffers financial hardship because they have had to pay for healthcare out of their own pockets and implementing high-impact health interventions to combat diseases and protect women’s and children’s health.”

His Excellency Minister of Health and Population of Malawi Jappie Mhango (far right) with VillageReach President Emily Bancroft and Advocacy Director Melissa West at the 74th United Nations General Assembly.

UHC will bolster the already established Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with SDG 3 focused on, among other health concerns, (1) “Reducing global maternal mortality;” and (2) “Ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age.”

CCPF is an innovation and the first of many UHC services for Malawi

What if an innovative solution exists at the intersection of people, phones, and health information and provides health information on antenatal and pediatric health topics? In Malawi, Chipatala cha pa Foni (CCPF) — Health Center by Phone in Chichewa — does. Malawians can call the free health hotline from an Airtel-provider mobile phone free of charge; CCPF doesn’t count against paid airtime.

The Malawi Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), with VillageReach’s expertise in design and implementation of innovations, developed CCPF as a community-based health hotline in the Balaka district of Malawi. Initially it focused on maternal, neonatal and child health information. Over time, CCPF expanded geographically and topically, from adolescent sexual reproductive health to general health and nutrition; now it is available at a national level to all Malawians.

Today the MoHP owns and manages CCPF. According to Dr. Atupele Muluzi, former Minister of Health and Population, “CCPF is an important part of achieving universal health coverage in Malawi and reaching rural communities who make up almost 74% of the population.” The MoHP considers this innovation to be like placing a health center in every home.

To meet SDG 3 and deliver on the promise of UHC, countries will have to innovate like Malawi did with CCPF. VillageReach will continue to co-create innovative solutions to solve health care challenges and break through the barriers to ensure health care for all.

Watch Dr. Nedson Fosiko, Deputy Director, Clinical Services, Malawi Ministry of Health and Population talk about CCPF and what it means to the people of Malawi.

“CCPF is a very interesting innovation increasing access to health services to the people just on their fingertips because they are given health information, providing them a forum where they can express themselves. They talk to somebody who they are not seeing so they feel free to talk about any issue and also get health information.” — Dr. Nedson Fosiko, Deputy Director, Clinical Services, Malawi Ministry of Health and Population

Watch Gloria Chingayipe, CCPF caller, mother and community health volunteer talk about how she benefited from CCPF.

“As a nation, we need to support this program and encourage each other to be using CCPF so that we can continue decreasing the number of maternal and child deaths in our country.” — Gloria Chingayipe, CCPF caller, mother and community health volunteer

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VillageReach works with governments to solve health care delivery challenges in low-resource communities.

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