Raj Panjabi is the current CEO of Last Mile Health, an organization whose mission is to provide healthcare and equity to the people of Liberia. Last Mile Health is an organization that the Global Health Core works very closely with in it’s efforts to promote access to quality care in Liberia. One of the core’s current fellows, Dr. Alexandra Stanculescu, is currently working in Liberia with Last Mile Health and the Ministry of Health. The core is proud to see Raj Panjabi’s organization featured in the following Forbes article:
“Social Entrepreneur: Raj Panjabi , 32, who was born in Liberia, fled the Civil War when he was 9, resettled in the U.S., became a doctor, joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School and, with Paul Farmer as his mentor, sought a way to help the state of rural medical care in his homeland.
Mission: Last Mile Health (known in Liberia as Tiyatien Health) aims to bring quality health care and jobs to remote regions of Liberia–where a two-day walk is generally required to access any medical care–by training community members to administer treatment and provide preventative care.
Problem: How can Last Mile Health scale from one region of Liberia (30,000 people) to serving every rural village in the country (1.5 million people)?
Summit Mentors: An all-star lineup of health visionaries and serial entrepreneurs, led by Jay Walker (founder of Priceline, now curator of TEDMed), Pearse Lyons (Alltech), Brad Keywell (Groupon), Naveen Jain (InfoSpace) and Dikembe Mutombo (see p. 107) , as well as Jeffrey Walker (a former top JPMorgan executive now helping to implement the health goals for the UN) and Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Advice: Jain urged Panjabi to use technology, particularly mobile, to leapfrog traditional logistics issues. Several others encouraged Panjabi to link what is, in essence, a rural distribution network, with for-profit companies. Nearly all mentors agreed that Last Mile needed a concrete business plan–specifically, a budget and how many people it could help for that money. Jeffrey Walker wanted to see paths for Last Mile to improve the quality, as well as the quantity, of field workers. And some expressed hope that a successful rollout in Liberia could prove a model that could scale globally.
Results: Inspired by suggestions from Jain, Panjabi has partnered with major Liberian mobile phone company Cellcom. “We really went with that advice,” he says. Last Mile’s frontline health workers now have cellphones that allow them to call ambulances (often in the form of dirt bikes, speeding the rate of emergency care) and get consultations on treatment. By prepaying Cellcom and getting land from the government, Last Mile has also created the first reliable post-civil-war cellular network in its region. Panjabi also developed a three-year plan to reach 150,000 patients at a cost of $10 million–two Summit attendees, Alltech’s Lyons and a well-known billionaire investor, are strongly considering commitments. If they go for it, they’ll have support.
President Sirleaf, previously unaware of Panjabi’s work, has publicly committed to help Panjabi scale his concept across Liberia and hosted an event for him at the Clinton Global Initiative in September. Jeffrey Walker, who went from JPMorgan to the UN, is thinking bigger: Panjabi will now present at a summit about community-based health as part of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. “The Forbes Summit put Liberia on the map in a big way,” says Panjabi. Specifically, the country, previously excluded, now has a chance to tap into a $1.1 billion UN fund to wipe out preventable diseases, with Last Mile positioned as a lead partner. If that pans out, more than 1 million rural Liberians might have health care sooner than anyone would have thought. Panjabi expects to hear by the end of the year.”
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