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salaUno Receives Support From the IBD to Fight Blindness in Mexico

The Mexican social enterprise salaUno will benefit from a technical cooperation of $250,000 from the Inter-American Development Bank (IBD) to strengthen the capacity of their business model and start an expansion pilot in the country.

Inspired by the Aravind model in India, salaUno is a health provider specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions in base of the pyramid populations. Approximately 60% of Mexicans have some type of eye condition and blindness is common even when 50% of cases can be prevented by treating cataracts. It is estimated that there are two million untreated cases in the country and 700,000 blind due to cataracts.

The technical cooperation—which consists of providing resources for specific activities and qualified advice from the IDB’s Opportunities for the Majority (OMJ) initiative—seeks to improve specific aspects of the salaUno business model so that it is easily scalable and ready to receive funding from future investors.

From August to December of 2011 salaUno diagnosed 9,000 patients in its pilot clinic, another 3,000 in partner centers, and carried out 1,400 cataract surgeries. The company’s goal for 2016 is to cover at least 25 percent of the annual incidence of cataracts in Mexico, reaching close to 300,000 cases.

The expansion of salaUno will be implemented through a sophisticated “hub and spoke” distribution platform, a network of clinics and diagnostic centers that will allow better access to low income communities. Hubs are surgical centers with the ability to diagnose and treat patients. The vision centers, or spokes, issue a diagnosis and, when necessary, use telemedicine to give a final opinion before referring the patient to a surgical center. The diagnostic centers are located in peri-urban areas and some rural centers, and have the ability to diagnose hundreds of patients per day. Patients that require surgery are transported by salaUno to the nearest clinics.

salaUno offers all of its services based on the income of the patients. In May of 2012, salaUno was certified by Mexican Popular Insurance which enables it to provide its services free of charge and receive payment through the government scheme.

Opportunities for the Majority

The Opportunities for the Majority initiative of the IBD supports the development and expansion of innovative business models designed to improve the living conditions and income opportunities of people at the base of the socioeconomic pyramid in Latin America and the Caribbean. Follow OMJ at @MajorityMarkets

Health Care