Hospitals and adequate health care are out of reach for many rural corners of the developing world. Yet even in the planet's most isolated regions, cellphone coverage has become ubiquitous. By leveraging these mobile networks, social Josh Nesbit discovered a simple tool for solving health care inequality.
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Inadequate communications infrastructure leads to needless deaths
I never dreamed I would set up a global company. But a glimpse of the health care system in Malawi during sophomore year changed my life by 180 degrees. Villages and hospitals being tens of kilometers apart, health care workers could not get to needing patients in time. Simply because of poor communications infrastructure, people were dying unnecessarily.
But glancing down at my cellphone, I noticed I had six bars. I discovered that basic cellphone service is solid, even in isolated villages. My mission was clear - use cellphones to connect villages with hospitals.
Returning to California, I collaborated with a visiting fellow building a simple communication system using open-source software. I contacted over 200 companies, asking them to donate cellphones. A grand total of one company agreed, giving us 100 units. In my junior year, I returned to Malawi, with cellphones and a software system – which immediately started making powerful results. I became convinced that while developing vaccines and medicines were important, creating a mobile-based communication system was critical in upgrading health care.
I want to create a world where basic health care exists for all
Everyone has a right to basic health care regardless of nationality or income. Upgrading basic health care doubles lifespans. That's why Medic Mobile is focused on primary areas like maternal health care and pediatric vaccinations. By systematically using cellphones to follow-up with families and communities in one city in India, vaccination rates rose from 60% to 99%.
I believe that the responsibility for bringing health care equality to developing nations lies with all of us in the industrialized world - not just medical specialists, but with people like software engineers, and even the ANA staff who make it possible for us to fly. The motto "we are all health workers" reflects our belief that everyone has a role to play.
Cellphones are a critical tool for revolutionizing global health care
Surprisingly, 90% of the world's population has basic cell coverage*. So there's no better tool for revolutionizing medical care. By 2020, our goal is to extend health care to 100 million people. But that's just a start. My mission is to see all seven billion people on this planet having access to basic care.
*2010 World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report
During his sophomore year at Stanford medical school, Josh studied pediatric HIV/AIDS in rural Malawi. He and a local health worker realized that even poor communities had excellent text-messaging capability - and the seed of Medic Mobile was sown. By his senior year, Josh abandoned plans to become a physician, and devoted his energies to Medic Mobile fulltime. Now 28 years old, he travels the world constantly, immortalized on Instagram for his ability to sleep on planes.