February 24, 2019

Global Health Business Case Competition Focuses on Ending Malaria

In the middle of a three week trip to Uganda in 2004, a driver I hired to escort me from my hotel to various meetings said his young son had just died from malaria, an infectious disease transmitted by the bites of infected mosquitoes. While malaria has been eradicated in the developed countries, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an estimated 445,000 people died of the infectious disease—most were young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Having spent a large amount of my career working to strengthen the private sector in developing countries, I have come to appreciate the collaborative role entrepreneurship plays in combating infectious diseases such as malaria. Therefore, it was with great pleasure to participate as a volunteer judge at the fourth annual Global Health Business Case Competition on Jan. 26, 2019. The event was hosted by the Global Business Center (GBC) at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, in partnership with the Jackson School's Center for Global Studies and the UW Department of Global Health. As explained in a blog post, "This competition provides a unique opportunity for students to experience hands-on, cross-disciplinary teamwork while tackling a global health challenge."

Thirty-two teams (26 undergraduate and six graduate) were given The Mosquito Network: Collaborative Entrepreneurship in the Fight to Eliminate Malaria Deaths, a 2016 case written by Gaylen Williams Moore, and published by the Harvard Kennedy School. The case was supplemented with a 2018 article, "Countries must steer new response to turn the malaria tide," which highlighted how malaria reduction efforts had recently stalled in the last two years, especially in high burden countries.

The GBC blog post further explains:
The students were asked to take on the role of an Africa-based team of consultants hired by the RBM Partnership to End Malaria. The teams were tasked with recommending how to spend an extra $6 billion on malaria reduction in the context of a new "high burden to high impact" malaria program, an approach that supports countries most affected by malaria. Specifically, students addressed how much would be allocated to the ten high burden countries in Africa and explored why malaria control efforts have not been effective in curbing malaria in these countries. Next, they had to identify the right mix of malaria interventions and best practices for a country where previous efforts proved ineffective.
Students had just 48 hours to do their research and create the slide deck to accompany their presentation. On Saturday morning, January 26th, interdisciplinary UW teams presented their solutions and judges scored teams on their analysis, style, rational, and ability to handle the question and answer session.
I was grouped with three other volunteer judges who heard presentations from four teams of talented undergraduate students. Focusing initially in the Democratic Republic of Congo with future expansion to Nigeria, Niger, and Mozambique, a team presented "The Domino Country" whose mission calls for using individualized action as an adaptable model to stimulate awareness and the economy to create a domino effect throughout Africa's high burden countries. Its benchmarks were trifurcated by educate (provide knowledge of diseases and prevention, and train community leaders and civilians in diagnostics), enact (create incentives towards malaria fighting organizations and initiate national malaria programs), and evaluate (high rates of net usage of bed nets and malaria awareness and economic stability towards malaria initiatives).

The vision of team "IMPACT Consulting" is to transform health intelligence and save lives in the fight against malaria through improved data analytics and partnering with local officials. They identified Cameroon as their initial test country with a phase two expansion to Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and Uganda.

"Uniting to Combat Malaria in an Era of Industrialization and Globalization" aimed to achieve four goals: (1) Develop a strategy that will appeal both to politicians and large donors while at also promoting community-based solutions in order to endure a long-term solution, (2) delegate funds to high risk countries and international organizations so that the marginal product per dollar spent is equal among productive capital to maximize total utility, (3) demonstrate a comprehensive analysis of past policies both good and bad to ensure progress for the future, and (4) establish an exhaustive Global Guidance Policy which will ensure there is cohesion in communication between global and local settings and to keep the various efforts on track for success. This team chose Nigeria as its country of focus.

Also focusing on combating malaria in Nigeria, team "Tumaini" made a presentation outlining two goals: developing an effective malaria vaccine or treatment by funding an established research program and immediately reduce malaria impact and mortality by fighting malaria through specialized clinics.

Undergraduate Track 1st Place
While neither of the teams we heard presentations from made the top three among the 26 undergraduate teams, we were quite impressed with the way each team employed essential critical thinking tools to understand the problem they were charged with solving and their creativity to formulate a possible solution.

With a rising middle class among its 1.24 billion inhabitants, government officials representing African nations often approach me about expanding my investment and business holdings on the continent. While I am keen to do so, having a workforce in good health or not otherwise impacted by sick young family members by a preventable disease such as malaria is essential to achieving long-term success. Programs like the Global Health Business Case Competition are an important piece to the process of creating sustainable solutions.

What solutions would propose if you had the opportunity to participate in this year's Global Health Business Case Competition?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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