At the end of September, our President and Founder Dr Sania Nishtar spent an inspiring few days at the eighth annual Clinton Global Initiative Meeting in New York. It was a meeting of minds where over 1,000 global leaders, CEOs, scientists, philanthropists, innovators, NGOs and journalists convened to forge solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges under this year’s theme of ‘Designing for Impact.’
Since the inaugural CGI Annual Meeting in 2005, established by President Bill Clinton, CGI members have made over 2,100 Commitments to Action which have touched the lives of nearly 400 million people in more than 180 countries.
During the conference we announced our 2012 CGI Commitment to Action, “mHealth to Address NCDs: Heartfile Health Financing, 2012”. Through this Commitment our social protection system, Heartfile Health Financing (HHF) which uses mHealth to address the global epidemic being caused by the world’s number one killer, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), will plan an up-scaling of the existing program to new regions in Pakistan, helping 2,000 additional patients/families and 14,000 individuals. HHF has been functioning for more than two years during which time over US $350,000 have been disbursed to more than 1,000 patients in Pakistan.
Nearly a quarter of the world’s population risks spending catastrophically on health care, being pushed into poverty, becoming indebted, or simply foregoing care. NCDs which include cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung and diabetes – are the main culprit in relation to health impoverishment. From a global health perspective, NCDs result in two out of three deaths worldwide. At a time when we are deciding upon a post-MDG agenda, the world should take note of such alarming figures; NCDs account for 36 million deaths a year and 80% of these are in low and middle income countries.
Heartfile is on a long journey to provide innovative solutions to overcome such global health challenges. HHF is our demand-side health financing system which enables registered hospitals to seek financial help for poor patients in an expedient and transparent manner.
The system has three components – a mhealth-enabled technology interface, a fund, and a system of ascertaining eligibility and priority. The system can be alerted by a simple SMS on a mobile telephone. After a quick two-step validation process, including verification of the patient’s unique identification number on the national database, money is then released and treatment can begin within days not months – saving lives.
Through the technology, donors can earmark and track their donations, and receive real-time updates on the individual patients they are supporting.
The new CGI commitment reflects HHF’s partnership with the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), Partners for a New Beginning (PNB) and a CGI-enabled partnership with Management Sciences for Health (MSH), an international non-profit organisation with experience in strengthening health systems in 40 countries. Through these collaborations, HHF will address problems in conflict-ridden regions of Pakistan via its mHealth programme and mobile-based financing.
The possibility of scale up is also being explored in other countries with similar needs. Initial steps are being taken towards replicating the program in African countries, where help is critical for the poorest of the poor, and where opportunities offered by technology and the penetration of mobile phones have remained untapped.