Looking back on 25 projects

by Anjali Sastry on February 13, 2010

Our second set of students teams are turning in their final reports and team learnings. We’ll have a vast store of fascinating material to explore in the months ahead, capturing each 3 or 4-person team’s journey in global health delivery over almost six months. Thanks to the bold experiment of G-Lab GHD, some 100 MIT Sloan MBA, Sloan Fellow, and other MIT graduate students have now partnered with a wide variety of organizations on health delivery challenges.

Students were lucky to have the extraordinary experience of learning in the classroom—often directly from leading experts—and working on customized projects in the field alongside implementers to tackle their own most pressing needs. Over the past year and a half, we’ve tackled operational, business, and management challenges in health care delivery in a variety of settings in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Malawi.

Beyond offering our students what could be a life-changing learning experience, our hope was that we could collaborate in building a new science of delivery studies, and of course to help our partners working on the front lines of care delivery by designing, testing, and implementing practical improvements that would enable enterprises to deliver more and better health care.

Along the way we learned to think of health in much broader terms than we had originally imagined. When I started this course, I expected to work on supply chain and inventory management, organizational strategy, business models, staffing issues, and process improvement, which we did. We also ended up working on cost accounting, risk management, income generation, change management, market research, road safety, IT, and social marketing. We learned some Swahili and other languages, a few songs, a bit about agriculture, and a lot about mobile phones and their potential. We learned how little we know of funding challenges, monitoring and evaluation, and marketing in resource-constrained settings. We drew on our colleagues’ expertise to learn about diseases, health systems, nutrition, and sanitation. We also learned, first-hand, about the talent, skills, and commitment of people in all kinds of organizations that we were lucky enough to work with. And the first-hand experience of resource constraints—whether it was rained-out roads or spotty internet, water, or electric power—has taught all of us about the pervasiveness of the challenges.

And please do not forget to check back on http://globalhealth.mit.edu in the weeks ahead as we share blog posts, videos, and more. There is some great material coming soon! Meanwhile, please let us know what you make of our efforts—we’ll take any and all feedback.

To all of you–my students!–and our many partners including dozens of organizations on the front lines of health care delivery in sub-Saharan Africa, our alumni, staff, and faculty colleagues who’ve helped us enter new fields, and especially to Dr Rebecca Weintraub and her colleagues including Dr. Erin Sullivan at the Global Health Delivery Project, thank you for joining us in exploring how management and the other social sciences, engineering, technology, and science can collaborate with medicine and public health to tackle pressing needs. I’m already looking forward to the next steps in that collaboration!

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