The Women Leading Some of Today’s Best Health Market Innovations

From HIV prevention to holistic, community-based models, women around the world are leading some of the most innovative health market programs in the world. On International Women’s Day, the Center for Health Market Innovations is proud to recognize the women entrepreneurs and leaders whose health programs are improving the lives of millions.

The Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ)

Dr. Izukanji Sikazwe

Chief Executive Officer and Director

Dr. Izukanji “Zuzu” Sikazwe is the first Zambian leader of CIDRZ. She is well known by her colleagues as an excellent leader as well as a practitioner. She has practiced medicine as an infectious disease clinician at the Adult Infectious Disease Centre of Excellence at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka and is a mentor and educator of physicians in training through the University of Zambia School of Medicine. She is also an active contributor and advisor to multiple working groups within the Government of the Republic of Zambia. Internationally, she works with agencies like the US National Institute of Health (NIH), US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, and the University of Maryland as a clinical researcher and HIV program expert.
Since joining CIDRZ in 2013, she has provided leadership on CIDRZ’s many innovative initiatives aimed at creating an AIDS-free Zambia. One of these initiatives, Community COMPACT, flips the traditional structure of HIV prevention programs around by supporting individual communities to drive their own prevention programs. They train community volunteers in HIV/AIDS basics, teach people living with HIV/AIDS how to prevent spreading it to their partners, and provide psychosocial and couples counseling. They conduct voluntary HIV testing drives every quarter, distribute contraceptives, and provide information, education, and communication materials on HIV treatment and prevention, cervical cancer, and HIV/TB co-infection. CIDRZ’s Community COMPACT program has increased testing and counseling of couples, adherence to testing and treatment by those who test positive, increased male involvement in antenatal care and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Learn more about the Community COMPACT program here.

Healing Fields Foundation

Mukti K Bosco

Co-Founder and CEO

Mukti K Bosco is well-known in the healthcare innovation space for her work in micro-insurance and health research. With co-founder Nimish R. Parekh, she created a novel health insurance program designed especially for the unique financial and health needs of low-income citizens of India. She is a trained Occupational Therapist, and she is an Ashoka Fellow and the recipient of the Sadguru Gnanananda National Award for Woman Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2009.
Healing Fields is a women-led and women-focused organization based in Hyderabad that recognizes women as the agents of change in their communities. In their own words, "we believe in the power of women to change the world around them." This core belief is reflected in Healing Fields’ holistic approach to health education in communities. Healing Fields uses a Community Health Facilitator (CHF) model which trains women to provide health education in their communities. The CHF model improves health awareness and education around key health issues like nutrition, sanitation and prenatal care, while also providing opportunities for women to build their own livelihoods.
Healing Fields’ CHF model stands out from other Community Health Worker (CHW) programs in the depth of training they provide. CHFs go through one year of demanding training to gain in-depth skills and knowledge, and to develop business skills to sell health products. CHFs are also trained and paid to conduct community programs like constructing toilets, building kitchen gardens and creating a health savings group. Healing Fields has trained 4,000 women, reaching approximately 5 million people with health education. Read more about the impressive results here

Young 1ove

Moitshepi Matsheng

Co-founder and Country Coordinator

From a very early age, Tshepi made educating and advocating for youths at risk of contracting HIV her life’s mission. She co-founded Young 1ove with Noam Angrist when she was only 22 and has helped turn it into one of the largest NGOs in Botswana. Tshepi has been recognized as a young leader and influencer by institutions like the UNESCO Youth Forum, MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation, and the Queen’s Young Leaders Award program. She is also Vice President of the Young Women’s Leadership Project at the University of Botswana.
Young 1ove focuses on bringing life-saving HIV prevention information to schools. Young people from the communities are trained to conduct focused and fun HIV prevention programs in their local schools. Young 1ove’s program “No Sugar” teaches young girls in Botswana that older men, or “sugar daddies,” put them at much higher risk for HIV and pregnancy.
Tshepi and her co-founders have been consistently dedicated to evidence since the beginning. Young 1ove’s approach was designed based on a study conducted in Kenya that showed a strong correlation between contracting HIV and having an older sexual partner. According to an interview with Noam Angrist, the team at Young 1ove "wanted to ensure that we weren't just feeling good, but doing good." In partnership with Baylor, the Ministry of Education, and J-PAL, they conducted a randomized control trial and are currently adapting their program based on the results before scaling up the program. Get the latest update here.

Nexleaf Analytics

Nithya Ramanathan

CEO and Co-founder

Photo provided courtesy of Nexleaf Analytics.
Nithya Ramanthan has used her expertise as a computer scientist to develop sensing and analytics technologies that can be used for a range of health and climate challenges. She has applied this technology and research to improve cold chains for the safe delivery of essential vaccines to over 12 million babies in remote areas. She also leads Nexleaf’s StoveTrace program, which monitors cooking stoves with the aim of reducing air pollution and increasing access to clean energy. Nithya has worked in research and hardware development at Intel and Hewlett-Packard and as an Assistant Research Faculty in Computer Science at UCLA. She is a PopTech Social Innovation Fellow, Switzer Environmental Fellow, and a Ranier Arnhold Fellow. She is the winner of the 2017 Hedy Lamarr Award for Female Tech Pioneer, and has presented at the Vatican on creating innovative technology solutions for climate change.
Nithya was instrumental in the development of Nexleaf’s ColdTrace technology. ColdTrace provides essential data to health care professionals who are working hard to find solutions to the challenge of safely delivering and storing temperature-sensitive vaccines to areas where power outages occur frequently. ColdTrace is a smart and practical tool that helps health care professionals take action to preserve their vaccines. When the temperature inside a refrigerator gets too hot or too cold, ColdTrace sends a text message to a nurse who can turn on the generator or ensure the latch on the refrigerator is working properly. Nexleaf found that ColdTrace reduced vaccine freezing in health clinics by 74%.
Nexleaf demonstrates a development model that values supporting in-country professionals and leaders. They use their technology and data to help Ministries of Health develop data informed strategies and budgets for vaccine refrigeration management. Learn more about them here.

Afghan Institute of Learning

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi

Founder and Executive Director

Photo provided courtesy of AIL.
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi has made incredible contributions to the health and education of Afghan women. In addition to the Afghan Institute of Learning, she has founded a private hospital, private high schools, and a radio station. Dr. Yacoobi has been a powerful voice on the international stage advocating for women’s rights, education, and healthcare in Afghanistan and around the world. Last year, BBC named her one of 100 inspirational and innovative women. She was also named one of the Sunhak Peace Prize Laureates and received the Sri Sathya Sai Award for Human Excellence in education.
Dr. Yacoobi founded The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) as an Afghan women-led NGO in 1995. The organization was established to provide teacher training to Afghan women, to support education for boys and girls, and to provide health education for women and children. AIL was supporting underground schools for girls in Afghanistan during a time when the Taliban was trying to prevent girls from being educated. By 2001, they had 80 home schools educationg 3000 girls. From the beginning, AIL adapted its programming based on the needs of the communities in which they work. When they started working to support schools in Pakistani refugee camps in 1996, they developed the first health education curricula and trained teachers to implement it.
Among AIL’s deep and varied work supporting health education is the dedication to prenatal education and outreach. They support pregnant women in Afghanistan through health clinics, health education workshops, prenatal and postnatal care and nurse, midwife, and community health worker training. AIL addresses the many challenges that women may confront, including hygiene, family planning, reproductive and birth education, cultural issues, nutrition, delivery options, and pre- and postnatal care for both mother and child. AIL’s approach is to link health and education programs to create lasting change. AIL complements its community health worker program with an Expectant Mother’s Workshop, where a CHW will refer pregnant women to a 3 hour workshop to learn about normal versus complicated delivery, breastfeeding, infant care and high risk factors for mother or baby. Since 1996, 15.9 million Afghans have received education, health services, and teacher training or benefited from AIL’s trained teachers. Learn more about AIL’s transformational work here.

Associação Saúde Criança

Dr. Vera Cordeiro

Founder and President of the Board of Directors

Dr. Vera Cordeiro is a doctor specializing in pediatric psychosomatics. She founded Associação Saúde Criança after observing in her practice at Lagoa Federal Hospital that many of the children that came to the hospital for medical care would be discharged, and then were re-admitted. She has dedicated her life to supporting hospitals in Brazil to give comprehensive and holistic healthcare that treats not only the medical symptoms, but ensures that children have healthy environments to go home to. She works closely with families to address the biopsychosocial factors that influence health, includingeducation, income, citizenship, and housing. Vera Cordeiro is an Ashoka fellow, Schwab Foundation social entrepreneur, and Skoll Foundation award winner, and an Avina leader.
Saúde Criança’s innovative approach refers families of sick children to a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals, social workers, psychologists, and lawyers who help the families create a Family Action Plan. The Family Action Plan is designed to give families the guidance and support they need to address issues of poverty, education, citizenship, and housing. Saúde Criança is unique in providing ongoing, consistent, and long-term support for families to achieve their goals. The families are also assisted in making appointments with doctors, getting access to drugs that may be unaffordable or unavailable through the public health system, and addressing lifestyle concerns associated with malnutrition. Saúde Criança’s model has spread to dozens of other organizations across Brazil.
These inspiring programs are just a small sample of many existing women-led programs. We are grateful for the achievements of these women and are proud to be working with them. We have much to learn from their leadership. Learn more in our database of health market innovations around the world.



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