I’ve been invited to speak on the topic of global health twice in the past month, and both times I’ve said to myself, I don’t know anything about global health. That’s what comes from being exposed, in some degree, to the insane complexity of global health. I’ve seen health experts, health investors, and health corporations struggle mightily with the challenges of addressing the large-scale health issues faced by the poor. As a society, we’ve made incredible progress with some major issues like Polio and AIDS/HIV, and seen remarkable progress on issues like maternal healthcare and diarrheal disease, but there is so much further to go.
I won’t share all the numbers, but they evoke a feeling of profound shame that we still can’t resolve these imminently solvable problems. And that millions of people, mostly children, die as a result. I believe it is the shame of our age. But I’ve surrendered to the fact that I, and even my organization, do not have the answers to these big challenges.
But we know people who do.
I’m not talking about the brilliant scientists inventing the cures, or philanthropists who take generosity to a new level to make that possible. I’m not even talking about the heroic leaders who fight diseases like AIDS and cholera in the trenches, battling bureaucracies and apathy to provide healthcare in places that the world has abandoned. I am talking about the searchers, the entrepreneurs who are looking for ways to outsmart the most challenging and persistent problems that still hold us back on issues of healthcare – the tough questions of cold chain-distribution for vaccines and life-saving drugs, or the challenges of marketing to end-users who feel a fundamental mistrust of many institutions. The issues of pricing in the face of extreme poverty, and of building a business model accessible to all.
I am talking about entrepreneurs who want to bring their creativity and relentless drive to deliver value for customers to the issues of healthcare, focused on meeting the needs of the poor. And that’s what I talk about in this short TEDx talk for the TEDxSF event, 7 Billion Well. Not because I think entrepreneurs are the answer to an issue like maternal health, but because I think they are a critical part of the solution on a whole range of issues where we need a new approach to listening to and empowering the patients themselves. And we are just at the beginning.