Harvard Doctor’s Million-Dollar Idea Could Prevent A Pandemic

Because "you can't bomb Ebola."

5. 1. 17 / Karla Lant
The Asahi Shimbun/Contributor/Getty

Preventing Pandemics

The $1 million TED Prize is awarded each year to someone with a creative idea for sparking global change. The idea behind the TED Prize is to accelerate progress toward solving some of the most challenging of the world’s problems by investing millions in potential solutions. The 2017 winner is Dr. Raj Panjabi, whose “Community Health Academy” could have the power to stop pandemics before they start.

Panjabi is a Harvard Medical School physician and CEO and co-founder of Last Mile Health, an organization that hires professional community health workers in remote areas to expand access to healthcare. Panjabi, describing his aim to Business Insider, says his goal is to “recruit and train the largest army of community health workers that’s ever been known.” Epidemics — such as the Ebola virus outbreak of 2014 — start small. If adequate healthcare resources are in place, they can be stopped early on. “I want to help countries where they’re already working on this to do it at a higher quality and lower cost, to create and curate the best in digital education resources, and to [use] self-learning and online courses to recognize the next outbreak,” Panjabi told Business Insider.


Epidemiology And Eradicating Disease

Panjabi’s project isn’t the only one with a goal of eradicating disease: Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — a $3 billion dollar plan to invest in basic scientific research, education, and access to technology — in September of 2016. The audacious goal of their initiative? Curing, eliminating, or preventing all disease by the close of the 21st century. The process will include open collaboration and sharing of information and resources — something that can be lacking in healthcare and clinical research. The first 47 researchers received grants from the initiative in February 2017.

Both the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Dr. Panjabi’s Community Health Academy are banking on an inclusive, preventative approach to health. They also represent the growing importance of access to technology in the fight against disease.


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