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Reducing preventable diseases in Africa by providing reliable transportation

Back in 2009, we wrote about a five-year project documenting how reliable transportation can help reduce preventable disease in Africa. British nonprofit Riders for Health had just announced its partnership with Stanford’s Graduate School of Business on the work.

The organization, which was created in 1996, provides maintenance for motorcycles and other vehicles used by health workers to deliver medical care in remote African communities. Today, an article in Forbes tells the history of the nonprofit, highlights its progress in improving health care in developing nations, and offers an update on the Stanford project:

Results are impressive. [Riders for Health has] helped increase the percentage of fully-immunized infants in The Gambia to 73% from 62%. The rate of malaria has decreased 21% in the Binga district of Zimbabwe, compared to a 44% increase in a neighboring district where Riders is not operating. Equally important, it’s working to make systemic change, working with ministries of health, UN agencies and local aid groups to incorporate logistics and transport into health care planning.

[Stanford business school professor Hau Lee, PhD,] and his research team are looking at 4 districts within a province in Zambia where Riders for Health is operating and 4 districts where it is not present, comparing logistics efficiency and health worker productivity. The study will run at least through next year and will also look at the outcomes of health interventions.

Lee also created a teaching case about Riders For Health for use with Stanford’s MBA students. Why teach business students about work being done by a nonprofit in Africa? “The innovations of Riders (like vehicle standardization, using proper spare parts inventory control, preventive maintenance schedules, a hub and spoke network, etc.) are good learning lessons for effective operations management in general,” Lee said in an email. Another reason: “Supply chain management and distribution logistics in developing economies pose very different challenges from a developed economy, and I want students to be aware of them. When they work for a global company, it may one day expand to new emerging markets.”

Previously: Riders for Health partners with Stanford business school
Photo by USAID Southern Africa

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