Innovators in Health (IIH) is a nonprofit founded by MIT alumni that ensures access to high quality tuberculosis (TB) treatment for patients in rural India. IIH grew out of the founders' original idea for uBox, a low-cost pillbox that reminds patients when to take medication while tracking the times of dosages for health care providers.
How did you get started, and how has your work evolved?
We started in January 2007 as a group entering the MIT IDEAS Competition [now the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge]. In 2008, the group formed the nonprofit Innovators In Health to carry on the work after we graduated. In 2009, I finished my PhD and devoted myself full time to establishing a TB treatment program in Bihar, a state in India. We started out with technological interventions, but our focus now is training and mentoring healthcare providers and strengthening the local public health system. A lot of our work has to do with empowering female healthcare workers.
What impact have you achieved on the community you serve?
Our TB program, run in collaboration with the government, covers a population of about 200,000 residents in rural Bihar. Since our inception, we have increased access to treatment fourfold. We've arranged for the diagnosis of more than 1,400 patients in the last 2.5 years and started close to 400 patients on treatment. More than 250 have finished, and the rest are undergoing treatment. More than 100 female community healthcare workers have been trained, and more than 70 have delivered drugs to patients.
How did the PSC play a role in your work?
We started as a group entering IDEAS, and we won the competition to get seed funding from the PSC. After that, the PSC funded us several times through service grants. We also leveraged the PSC's experience in international development, and the PSC folks put us in touch with D-Lab, which helped us with technology development.
How has this work had a personal impact on you?
Public service transforms the doer as much as it transforms the beneficiary. The work we've done, and been very lucky to be able to continue, has been deeply rewarding. The more we're able to help people, the more grateful we are, and the more humbled we are by the improbability of it all.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
We've learned in these last six years what is more important than money, technology, the right model, or idea. What is needed most is a generation of young people with deep civic virtue. Public service is not some adjunct to an education. If institutions are serious about their mission to tackle humanity's central challenges – climate change, poverty, disease, inequality – then public service must be the very core of educational experience.