A New Health Care Project Won Awards. But Did It Really Work?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The program seemed like a fantastic idea at first, says Manoj Mohanan, an assistant professor of public policy and economics at Duke University.

It’s called the WHP-Sky Program. The idea behind it was to transform health care in rural India, where doctors are scarce. WHP hoped to set up franchises where patients could get electronic advice from doctors with degrees instead of less-qualified health workers.

The program got a lot of support, including $23 million in funding from the Gates Foundation (which is a funder of NPR and of this blog). After the 2011 launch, the Gates Foundation commissioned a team of independent scientists, including Mohanan, to review the project. They found that after its first three years of its operation, WHP-Sky seems to have had zero impact on India’s rural landscape.

Doctors are scarce outside of India’s bustling urban centers. Qualified health professionals are loathe to leave the comforts of city life, says Abhijit Banerjee, a professor of economics at MIT. “Doctors just don’t like practicing in rural areas. They find it inconvenient to live there.” That leaves over 70 percent of the country’s population — some 876 million people — without any doctors in easy reach, Banerjee says.

Source: NPR (link opens in a new window)

Health Care, Technology
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