‘E-Coupons for Mosquito Nets’ – Part II of our Grand Challenges Canada series


Innovate Development is pleased to present a weekly series featuring projects funded and supported by Grand Challenges Canada. This is the second in a four-part series in which we cover topics surrounding mothers and children in the Global South.

For more information about Grand Challenges Canada, please see the bottom of this post or go to their website, www.grandchallenges.ca.

‘E-Coupons for Mosquito Nets’ – Using mobile phones to fight malaria in Tanzania

malaria 2In 2012, there were an estimated 207 million cases of malaria worldwide. In Tanzania, the disease causes roughly 100,000 deaths each year, an overwhelming majority of them children under five. Pregnant women and young children are at highest risk by far.

Since 2011, the Tanzania National Voucher Scheme (TNVS) has used mobile phone text messaging to provide pregnant women with an electronic voucher redeemable at participating retailers for a long-lasting insecticidal bed nets for a nominal fee (33 cents). The scheme has made a significant impact on malaria control in Tanzania but gaps remain — about 40% of women do not redeem the e-voucher, puzzling researchers: Do they have enough nets in the home? Did they misplace their e-voucher? Could they not even afford the modest price? Do they understand the protection a mosquito net offers?

Waterloo, Ontario-based Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty, is an implementing partner of the TNVS.  With the help of a global health researcher at Queen’s University, Kingston, the organization wants to increase the efficiency of the distribution system, focus it more intensively in areas of high malaria risk and examine how the remarkable SMS-based delivery system could be applied to additional health threats of growing importance, such as hypertension.

malaria 1MEDA and Dr. Karen Yeates of Queens University have designed a cluster randomized trial that will test the effectiveness of a text message (SMS) dialogue with the women who are issued an e-voucher, sending them reminders to redeem them for nets. The team will also collect data about usage and barriers, and investigate potential solutions. This will not only indicate if SMS is an effective method to ensure redemption, but will also investigate why some women do not redeem their net voucher. Involving the end user will ultimately lead to better management and improve the electronic delivery method, reducing the burden of malaria for women and children.

“Africa’s health challenges like malaria and hypertension are challenges too big for a government or the private sector to solve alone,” notes Thom Dixon, Director Business of Health at MEDA. “With Grand Challenges Canada’s funding, the team can apply action-oriented market research skills that lead to more effective commercial bed-net delivery and promotion, so more households—particularly those with pregnant women and children—sleep safely under bed-nets. Moreover, the funds will enable piloting of e-vouchers to fight hypertension, a growing threat in Africa.”

“The innovation lies in the fact that we are putting the people most at risk, pregnant women, in the driver’s seat, enabling them to help us create a better system, and to improve not only their lives but the lives of other people,” says Dr. Yeates. Grand Challenges Canada has awarded a $792,000 grant, supplementing funds secured by MEDA, generating a total investment of $1.5 million.

For more information on innovations in the fight against malaria, click here.

About Grand Challenges Canada

In its latest round of grants, Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Government of Canada, has announced $12 million worth of funding for 65 innovative projects targeting mothers’, children’s and newborn’s health related challenges in Low Resource Countries

There are two words that perfectly capture Grand Challenges Canada’s approach: Integrated InnovationTM. Integrated Innovation is the coordinated application of scientific/technological, social and business innovation to develop solutions to complex challenges. This approach does not discount the singular benefits of each of these types of innovation alone, but rather highlights the powerful synergies that can be realized by aligning all three. It is about turning innovation into practice on the ground; about engaging the local community where a project is instituted from the outset.

Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Government of Canada and is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big impact in global health. The organization has invested in hundreds of projects in low- and middle income countries, coming from innovators from Canada or resource-constrained countries and is led by Dr Peter A. Singer. His latest Annual Letter demonstrates how after four years, Grand Challenges Canada has evolved into a platform that nurtures innovative solutions in global health. How it offers opportunities for social enterprises and impact investors to generate measurable and sustainable social impact.

On the 22nd of May 2014, Grand Challenges Canada announced its latest round of funding: 65 innovations helping to improve and save the lives of Mothers, Newborn and Children in low-resource communities.

Of the recent grants announced, 61 are seed-level proof-of-concept grants in the Stars in Global Health portfolio, valued at $112,000 each, and four transition-to-scale projects collectively valued at $5.2 million. These projects run the gamut from mobile-device based Tuberculosis detection in India to a low-smoke multi-fuel cooking stove in Nepal. The hallmark of each of these projects is that the concepts all involve local community members to engage the population whose lives these innovations will seek to improve. Additionally we are supporting the scaling up of a project in Nepal (Loving the Loo; see project description below for images) that seeks to improve sanitation by producing and marketing simple low-cost latrines that can be installed in a matter of hours. The key being that the purchase and installation of a properly plumbed loo is a matter of pride for the rural folk in Nepal. This demonstrates an innovative approach to solving a health crisis that – to this day – claims the lives of many children under the age of five.

In the long run, Grand Challenges Canada is committed to scaling up its impact by investing in organizations with sustainable growth prospects. The articles in this series are examples of our latest round of scaling investments to innovators around the globe.

Shouri Bagchi

Shouri Bagchi

Shouri Bagchi works in communications for Grand Challenges Canada and is currently completing his IMBA in Strategy & Marketing at the Schulich School of Business.

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