The Ultimate #HealthMeetsTechNG Hack: Funding Healthcare with plastic waste

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Where can you feel excited, anxious, inspired, passionate and enlightened, all within 72 hours? These were the emotions at the 2019 #HealthMeetsTechNG hackathon, held in Abuja, focused on finding solutions for maternal health in Nigeria.

The three-day hackathon organised by EpiAFRIC and its partners was the third edition in the series of #HealthMeetsTechNG hackathons held in Nigeria. At the end of the three-days, the ideas, insights and solutions that emerged were innovative, exciting and timely in order to address the challenges in maternal healthcare in Nigeria.

Over the years, EpiAFRIC has facilitated the development of opportunities to foster innovation in the Nigerian healthcare industry. Nineteen percent of the 358,000 global maternal deaths annually occur in Nigeria. That is more than 50,000 maternal deaths per year in Nigeria. The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2013 reported that there are 576 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Nigeria. It is only pertinent that the theme for this year’s hackathon focused on maternal health.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

A Weekend Like No Other
CEO & Medical Director of Ingress Health Partners, Dr Orode Doherty, in her keynote speech, reinforced the importance of bringing health and tech professionals together. “We can and we should (bring health and tech together) because we are rebuilding the foundations of healthcare in Nigeria and should continually rebuild… technology is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end and as long as you get that, healthcare and technology will work well together,” she said, adding that developing technologies for health problems should never be done in silos.

A opening panel discussion provided teams and participants with the opportunity to gain insights into maternal health issues in Nigeria. Panelists included the Senior Country Representative Pathfinder International, Dr Farouk Jega; CEO Ventures Park, Nkechi Oguchi; Product Manager mDoc, Bosoye Olagbegi and award-winning founder of Tolu The Midwife, Tolu Adeleke-Aire.

Let’s talk about maternal health. Panelists L-R Tolu Adeleke-Aire, Nkechi Oguchi, Dr Farouk Jega and Keynote Speaker Dr Orode Doherty. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

They shared personal stories around maternal health and potential tech solutions. Dr Farouk Jega said that “Globally, maternal mortality is a proxy for the level of development of a country. It is not an accident that the most developed societies have low maternal mortality rates and countries like Nigeria and Sierra Leone are burdened with higher rates.

Nigeria Director, MSD for Mothers, Iyadunni Olubode, noted that “If a woman does not know what quality healthcare is, can she say if she received one? We have a duty to educate and empower women, changing their mindset and getting them to see what quality healthcare looks like.”

Thinking through the design process
The teams were taken through a session on design thinking, by Ugonna Ofonagoro, Head of Projects at EpiAFRIC , where they had to think through the end user (the patient) experience. By adopting the principles of design thinking, which focuses around developing empathy for the end user, putting themselves in their shoes and understanding how they feel, the teams had to walk through an empathy map, so that they could really understand that any solution they created, had to match the end user’s needs.

Empathy is the name of the game! Head of Projects EpiAFRIC, Ugonna Ofonagoro leading the Design Thinking session. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

Ifeanyi Nsofor, CEO of EpiAFRIC, then took the teams through a mock pitch session. The teams had to be able to clearly articulate the problem they were trying to address and the solution to the problem. They were reminded that the solution they created had to be replicable, scalable, sustainable and financially viable. They were encouraged to use story-telling while delivering their pitch. Nothing beats the power of a beautiful story. People connect with people and telling the human stories behind the problem would better resonate and encourage engagement with the solution being created.

Collaborating for Mothers
For the next day and a half, you could feel the intensity in the air as teams gathered to identify specific problems to address current challenges in maternal health. Developers, health professionals and business persons collaborated to work on solutions to identified maternal health problems, with input from mentors. The hackers tested their solutions with other participants and leveraged each other’s strengths to refine their solutions. Participants were encouraged to focus on one problem and to think of tech solutions that would truly make a difference, putting the end user at the centre of the solution design.

“We have a duty to empower women” — Nigeria Director MSD for Mothers, Iyadunni Olubode. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

And the winning team is……
On the final day of the hackathon, the hustle and bustle culminated in seven-minute presentations per team to a diverse and experienced panel of judges: Ag. CEO TY Danjuma Foundation, Gima Forje, CEO Ehealth4everyone, Dr. Ime Asangasi, Director of Programmes Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, Senior Country Representative Pathfinder International, Dr Farouk Jega, Founder of Tolu the Midwife, Tolu Adeleke-Aire and Family Physician with the Department of Hospital Services, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Adaeze Oreh.

Team MataHealth’s solution aimed to increase maternal and reproductive health education using SMS and social media messaging to improve awareness and dispel misinformation about pregnancy and childbirth.

Team Matervent’s solution aimed to improve access to maternal health information among men and women of reproductive age in rural communities. Their solution was targeted atimproving the poor access to health information. Through the app they developed, women would also be able book hospital appointments.

Team Doctor Friend’s solution was a maternal health information dispersal service where women can dial a USSD code to access doctors. The team developed a platform that connects doctors in the diaspora with patients in Nigeria.

Team Viable Knowledge Masters pitched a USSD based solution that offers verified maternal health services where women can locate the health center closest to them. The service uses a crowd sourcing model that enables patients to rate the services they received in health facilities.

Team Humane’s solution aims to reduce maternal mortality by providing a quality integrated referral system between Traditional Birth Attendants and health facilities.

Team Sosocare developed a solution to provide access to low cost health insurance for women who could ordinarily not afford to access healthcare. The solution focused on using plastic waste which could be exchanged for a basic package of healthcare across a network of health facilities.

The wait seemed endless as teams waited for judges to deliberate and collate results. Finally, the results were in!

In third place was Team Humane while Team Viable Knowledge Masters was in second place.

Finally, the judges announced Team Sosocare as winners of the 2019 #HealthMeetsTechNG #GivingBirthInNigeria hackathon. Having already tested their pilot, right after the hackathon, the team launched the Sosocare App to the public on Monday, September 23, 2019. This team impressed the judges with the creative solution they came up with. It not only addressed the challenges in accessing affordable healthcare for low income families, but also addressed solutions around the disposal and recycling of plastic waste.

Their story readily illustrates the quote by Roman philosopher Seneca; “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” The solutions created by the teams may have been radical or disruptive, but to improve the current dire maternal mortality figures and access to quality care, all options beyond the conventional need to be explored.

And it’s a wrap! Cheers to more solutions for healthcare in Nigeria. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

This is just the beginning
The bespoke mentoring process developed by EpiAFRIC and partners will help the winning teams take these solutions from ideas to reality.

In closing, CEO EpiAFRIC, Dr Ifeanyi M. Nsofor said: “The hackathon is indeed the beginning of the future of your solutions. The success of your solution now depends on your drive and not whether or not you won today.”

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