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The 2014 Hult Prize Demonstrates the Power of Innovation to Improve Health

- October 9, 2014 - 0 Comments

As a visiting lecturer on “Transforming Health and Care” at the Hult International Business School in London, I was invited last March to be a jury panel member for the regional Hult prize competition. Named as one of the top five ideas changing the world by President Bill Clinton and Time Magazine, the annual competition for the Hult Prize aims to identify and launch the most compelling social business ideas—start-up enterprises that tackle issues faced by billions of people. Winners receive US$1 million in seed capital, as well as mentorship and advice from the international business community.

The 2014 Challenge: Solving Non-Communicable Disease in the Urban Slum

HultPrizeBlogThe 2014 Hult Prize “President’s Challenge” was focused on healthcare: Can we build a social healthcare enterprise that serves the need of 25 million urban slum dwellers suffering from chronic diseases by 2019? From a record 10,000 applications, representing more than 150 different countries and over 350 colleges and universities, regional finalists were selected to pitch their new and innovative social ventures in six regions around the world: Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Sao Paulo and Shanghai.

The Hult Prize Global Finals took place last month at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City, an event attended by Cisco CEO John Chambers and Tae Yoo, Cisco’s senior vice president of corporate affairs.

The six finalists pitched their solutions and business models to President Bill Clinton and a panel of distinguished judges, including Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus. The solutions comprised an eclectic collection of innovative and disruptive ideas—from a chewing gum-based solution to prevent tooth decay, to low-cost, locally designed and manufactured eye glasses, to bees that can diagnose diabetics. (This was “Bee Healthy” the European regional finalist from HEC Paris, which I was privileged to help select.)

Winning Solution Based on Scalable, Connected Technology

The winning entry was the “Dox-in-a-Box” solution created by the “NanoHealth” team from the Indian Business School. The Dox-in-a-Box is a portable device that community health workers can use to screen slum dwellers for diabetes and high blood pressure—two of the most lethal non-communicable health conditions worldwide. The device connects over a mobile infrastructure to a network of physicians who make diagnoses and prescribe treatment. A six-point “NanoSafe” follow-up plan—including mobile alerts—then helps ensure patient compliance in taking their medication. Data is collected as part of the process to help identify regional and national health trends.

This solution is an inspiring example of the Internet of Everything (IoE) at work. IoE is all about the connections among people, process, data, and things. The Dox-in-a-Box is a device (or “thing”) that connects people with the processes they need to improve their health—and feeds data into a context where it can have a larger impact on public health. In fact, this solution aligns very closely with Cisco’s HealthPresence technology, which extends “face-to-face” physician consultations to people in remote and underserved areas.

At the event, President Bill Clinton highlighted the idea of “creative cooperation,” declaring that “wherever in the world people are facing challenges with ‘networks of cooperation,’ good things will happen. This is how the world has to work in the 21st century.” It was a great opportunity to represent Cisco in this deeply inspiring evening, which testified to the role of disruptive technologies (such as IoE) in solving the pressing problems in the world.

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