MIT Sloan's new Global Health Delivery tackles constraints in delivering health care in emerging markets

MIT students working on-site in Africa throughout January

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., December 29, 2008 — Graduate students enrolled in MIT Sloan School of Management's newest global entrepreneurship course, Global Health Delivery, are venturing to resource-poor settings in Africa this January to tackle practical constraints in delivering health care to the neediest with new approaches that have implications for the United States.

This new course is the result of collaborative efforts between MIT Sloan's Global Entrepreneurship Laboratory (G-Lab) and Harvard University's Global Health Delivery Project.

G-Lab, an international project-based class, pairs its students with real-world startups in emerging markets across the globe wrestling with management challenges. Like G-Lab, Global Health Delivery harnesses the expertise of engineering, bio-medical, and social science students from across MIT as well as its core group of MBAs. Harvard's project, meanwhile, draws from the expertise of physicians led by Jim Yong Kim, MD, a former director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS Department.

Throughout January, thirteen teams comprised of 53 MIT students will apply knowledge gained in the classroom to on-site projects at clinics, hospitals, research organizations, and NGOs in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Sierra Leone. These partner organizations proposed the projects and collaborated with course faculty and students to scope each team's work to best match the students' skills and interests.

“Surprisingly, key roadblocks in global health delivery are not medical — they are managerial,” says Anjali Sastry, an MIT Sloan senior lecturer and a co-creator of the Global Health Delivery curriculum. “Poverty in underserved African populations speaks to market failures vis-à-vis health, infrastructure and economics. What differentiates our program from others is our ability to tackle each of these issues as a whole with teams composed of experts in management, medicine, and engineering created through our collaborative efforts.”

Indeed, the over-subscribed course, which boasts a waiting list, has particularly resonated with Sloan MBAs eager to re-tool solutions from other sectors and countries to create sustainable enterprise models for more efficient and effective operations. To do this, students are exploring such goals as balancing revenue generation with providing critical community health services in African communities.

Back on campus in February, students will complete their projects and use the last six weeks of the class to learn from their own and others' experiences via interactive exercises and conversations with experts in the field. The goal, says Sastry, is to create materials that distill their learning, insights, and work in the field to benefit other students — and the wider community.

“Perhaps the biggest challenge in healthcare today is figuring out how to take what works — and what we know from research and others' experiences — and make it work elsewhere,” says Sastry. “This need exists in Africa, as well as in parts of the United States and many other developed countries. That's why we're focusing on the delivery of health care — what it takes to get the medical workers, the medical knowledge, the medicines and devices, and the information to the people who need it. If we can partner with practitioners working on the ground to improve how their patients and community members get healthcare in resource-constrained settings globally, we believe we will learn how to apply our findings to areas in the US.”

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