One of Morse's next calls was to another friend, this one a star in the field of medicine. Harvey Rubin, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Pennsylvania, does research on tuberculosis and the mathematical modeling of complex biological systems. His vast professional and personal network has made him a kind of human power grid. If anyone could figure out a way to deal with the mess in Haiti, Morse figured Rubin was the one. But Rubin had bad news.
Leaders and innovators in global health met yesterday (April 8th 2014) at the United Nations to provide guidance about partnerships as the UN considers the next iteration of the Millennium Development Goals. This particular meeting was a side event, sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response, to the UN Economic and Social Council’s two-day meetings on the role of partnerships.
Here’s a shocking statistic: 2.5 million children under the age of five continue to die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines are available, but lack of infrastructure often prevents them from reaching the remote and impoverished communities that need them most.
A new initiative pioneered by the non-profit organization Energize the Chain could hold the key to reducing this number dramatically and preventing needless deaths. The idea: use electricity from mobile phone masts to run vaccine refrigerators at sites in remote areas. ASAP spoke to the director of Energize the Chain, Dr Harvey Rubin of the University of Pennsylvania.
The Google Alumni Programs team hosted 14 hackers and 3 nonprofit organizations (Energize the Chain, WellDone, and GreatNonprofits) at the first ever Hack4Good event in Mountain View on September 14-15, 2012.
The event supported the efforts of current and former Googlers actively involved in nonprofits by creating technical solutions that will further their impact. The technical solutions will be used to keep vaccines cold in India, provide data about water wells built in Africa, and promote greater feedback and transparency for donors/volunteers across thousands of nonprofits! One organization rep told the hackers, “You definitely saved lives this weekend."
On August 20, 2012, Philadelphia Business Journal and program partner, Pennsylvania Bio, unanimously selected Energize the Chain to receive the Philadelphia Business Journal 2012 Life Sciences award for Best Innovation from a Research Institute. See the official announcement here.
Infectious disease specialist, Harvey Rubin, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Alice Conant, then a student at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, suggested using surplus power from cellphone towers to run the refrigerators needed to keep perishable vaccines cool. Their idea is now being tried out at 10 church-run hospitals across Zimbabwe, with the backing of Econet Wireless, a cellphone provider based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Energize the Chain and Econet Wireless have now publicly joined and showcase the project on Econet's Development Foundation page.
"Harvey Rubin, a professor at Penn's medical school, also was struck by a chance idea that could help the developing world.
It started when actor David Morse, a friend of Rubin's, e-mailed him this year to ask about the problems in getting medical care to people in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Among other issues, Rubin explained how vaccines had to be kept cold to remain effective."
Maintaining the cold chain is an almost overwhelming challenge in countries where resources are scarce. The cold chain becomes increasingly unreliable as the distance between primary health centers and sub-health centers increases because of the lack of reliable power sources in the rural areas of developing countries. This is where the cell phones come in.
Excitement is growing in our team the University of Pennsylvania and with our partners as we continue to plan the pilot project of this technology and anticipate the enormous impact it will have on healthcare in developing countries. We welcome any ideas and suggestions.
"NEW YORK — I was intrigued to learn the other day that there are now more cellphones in India than toilets. Almost half the Indian population, 563.7 million people, is hooked up to modern communications, while just 366 million have access to modern sanitation, according to a United Nations study.This can be seen as skewed development favoring private networks over the public good...."