Kyle Poplin

‘Lean So Far Into It That You’re At Risk’: … and 20 other quotable quotes from the Global Health & Innovation Conference

Organizers of the annual Global Health & Innovation Conference at Yale University have high hopes.

They want to change the world.

They just might. Their 11-year-old event, after all, has grown into one of the largest global health conferences on the planet.

April 12 and 13, more than 2,000 people – including many with world-changing ideas – from more than 50 countries gathered to bounce around those ideas about how to make health care accessible to everyone.

Presented by Unite For Sight and sponsored by Harvard Business School, GHIC was a whirlwind, including six keynote addresses and about six dozen breakout sessions in and around the Yale campus. Many sessions dealt with the nuts and bolts of health care provision, and more than a few motivational success stories were mixed in.

What follows is a mere sampling of what NextBillion Health Care heard and saw at the event. (If you attended, or if you have any thoughts about innovation in global health, we’d love to hear your comments below.)

Jeffrey Sachs, keynote speaker and special adviser to Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon: “We’ve arrived at an interconnected planet. Our challenge is to make this interconnected world work effectively. … It’s about ending poverty, sharing prosperity and doing it all in an environmentally sound way.” We need to set clear goals for solving problems, he said, and use technology advances to solve them.

• Seth Godin, keynote speaker, blogger, author and founder of “Lean so far into it that you’re at risk. That’s when we do our best work. … The person who invented the ship invented the shipwreck. You’re either into that or you’re not.”

• Eric Bing, senior fellow and director, global health, George W. Bush Institute: “Millions of people are dying of diseases we know we can cure. It’s a business decision. … Businesses (like Coke and cell phone manufacturers) are finding ways to get these things out. Why can’t we do this with basic health care?”

• Wendy Taylor, director for accelerating innovation and impact, Global Health Bureau, USAID: “Planning for scale must happen early and often. And even with all that planning, you might still need market shaping.”

• Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and chair of Stonyfield Farms, and a keynote speaker: “Water is the oil of the 21st century. It is now THE issue in agriculture.”

• Michael Moss, investigative reporter for “The New York Times,” keynote speaker: “Salt, sugar and fat are the unholy trinity of the processed food industry. … It’s not about (consumers) liking products, it’s about wanting them over and over.”

• Lisa Hirschhorn, monitoring, evaluation and quality improvement director, Partners in Health: “You can’t improve what you can’t monitor.”

• Todd Stark, president, Good World Solutions: “Mobile phones have 89 percent penetration in the developing world.”

• Martin Edlund, CEO, Malaria No More: “Malaria will be the first disease beaten by mobile. … Having treatment at the right place and right time is literally a matter of life and death.”

• Michael Gyasi, ophthalmologist in Ghana: “Can NGOs provide funding (for cataract surgeries in Ghana) forever? No.”

• James Tsai, chairman, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Yale University School of Medicine: “Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. It’s a thief in the night. Some who have it don’t know it.”

• Dean Cycon, founder and CEO, Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Co.: “Forty-four illiterate indigenous women created the first self-funded women’s health care program in Guatemala.”

• Alejandro Arrieta, Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, Florida International University: “More people than ever in Latin America have access to health care, and more are turning to the private sector.”

• Cal Bruns, CEO, Matchboxology: “It’s not about commodity, it’s about community. … Use peer pressure as a positive force for participation.”

• Cheryl Heller, chair, MFA Design for Social Innovation, School of Visual Arts: “In overthinking, we’ve lost the connection between design and creativity … There are some things that you simply cannot do in Excel.”

• Meira Neggaz, senior program officer, MSI-US: “There’s a large number of young people in the world and they have a lot of reproductive health needs we aren’t meeting. … We need new models, with clients at the center.”

• Jade Gray, business development associate, “We need to bring the clinic to the teens, not the teens to the clinic.”

• Amy Lockwood, chief of staff to the director of research, UCSF, Global Health Sciences: “Health care is just a difficult business to get into. … You have to generate revenue from somewhere, from someone, if you want to build and distribute things.”

• Leith Greenslade, vice chair, child health, Office of the UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and the MDG Health Alliance: “We need a new global breastfeeding priority,” including exploration of the idea of paying mothers to breastfeed.

• Kim Longfield, director, research and metrics, Population Services International: “Building and maintaining tailored measures (of health care program outputs) can be resource intensive.” But it’s worth it.

• Jordan Levy, managing director, Ubuntu Education Fund: “When we changed our focus from ‘How?’ to ‘How many?’ it became an obsession and drove us in the wrong direction. … It takes small, prudent steps to change lives.”

Kyle Poplin is the editor of NextBillion Health Care.

Environment, Health Care
healthcare technology, poverty alleviation