Ten newly developed health services launched on WhatsApp have the potential to improve millions of lives; A Showcase of Impactful Solutions from the 2023 Chat for Impact Health Accelerator
Ten new health chat services with the potential to improve millions of lives have been showcased during the 2023 Chat for Impact Health Accelerator Demo Day which took place on Tuesday 3 October 2023.
The ten health organisations from across the globe were selected from over 375 applicants to participate in the 2023 Chat for Impact Health Accelerator. Over the six-week period the organisations were provided guidance and support for the design, development and deployment of their chat-based service on WhatsApp and a license for Turn.io’s technology platform, which will amplify and scale their health services to improve health outcomes in their communities.
The development of a chat-based solution on WhatsApp, which has over 2 billion active users globally, offers an affordable and easy way for people, often living in remote areas or without resources, to access vital health information, services or support on a platform that they are already familiar with and using day to day.
The Chat for Impact Accelerator is an initiative developed by Turn.io, an organisation advancing social impact through their chat-enabling technology platform, together with WhatsApp, the largest messaging platform in the world, and The Agency Fund, a donor collaborative that invests in the development and evaluation of innovations that aim to improve human outcomes.
The ten organisations, spanning Europe, Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific regions, are working across a number of health sectors including maternal & child health, female healthcare, mental health and quality healthcare access for underserved communities. The organisations include Access Afya (Kenya), Aga Khan University (Pakistan), Cranberry (India), ImpulsoGov (Brazil), iWill (India), HelpMum (Nigeria), Koko (USA), Rocket Health (Uganda), Wysa (India) and Vida Plena (Ecuador). In addition to the six-week support programme, organisations each receive $25 000 in funding for their service.
Alex Rukunya from Rocket Health said after completing the Accelerator programme “This cohort is brimming with trailblazers who are impacting the lives of individuals and communities. Personally, I have been inspired by what everyone has achieved and built in a short time frame and the skills that we have acquired in just seven weeks are invaluable. On behalf of Rocket Health, we are proud to be a part of this extraordinary cohort”.
Pippa Yeats, Co-Founder of Turn.io commented after the Demo Day event “the ten organisations that participated in this year’s Chat for Impact Health Accelerator already provide a high standard of evidence-based health interventions in their communities. The Accelerator helped them translate these interventions into chat services, enabling them to increase their scale and deepen their health impact. We are extremely proud of the organisations and the chat services they have developed during the six-week programme and we look forward to supporting them as they continue to develop and enhance the life-saving services they have built”.
Aras Jizan, Member at the Agency Fund said, "by harnessing the power of chat and AI to reach users that these technologies often leave behind, this cohort of leaders is working to make sure that everyone has access to the support of a counsellor, coach, or clinician to help them navigate toward a healthier future.”
Turn.io will be providing ongoing support and assistance to each of the ten organisations over the next twelve months to assist with the continued development of the chat-based services. Turn.io will also be announcing their 2024 Accelerators before the end of 2023.
2023 Chat for Impact Health Accelerator Chat Solutions
Access Afya (Kenya)
Chat service: Afya Mama
Access Afya delivers a high quality localised primary healthcare operating system, designed specifically to serve the needs of low-income markets.
They have developed a physical and digital healthcare network utilizing asset-light micro-clinics, telemedicine, and patient health data to engage patients throughout their healthcare journey, from diagnosis to treatment. Access Afya improves maternal healthcare in Kenya by offering accessible, affordable, and quality services through strategically located clinics and a data-driven digital platform. Pregnant women are introduced to Access Afya through community health workers or at the clinic, gaining access to the Afya Mama chat service for personalised support. The chat service includes risk assessment prompts to gauge complications, encouraging clinic visits or online consultations through Access Afya's telehealth platform for any danger signs. Women receive maternal health information, tracking their baby's development, bodily changes, and clinic visit reminders. Access Afya prioritizes underserved populations, with plans to scale the chat service through automated functions linked to electronic medical records, integration into the telehealth platform, and utilization of AI tools for query responses. The CRM tool identifies patient journey gaps, guiding initiatives for improved adherence.
Aga Khan University (Pakistan)
Chat service: Elaj Asan
Aga Khan University's Elaj Asan mobile application is an Android-based patient-centred platform that offers a sophisticated avenue to connect with specialised medical professionals via teleconsultation services provided by Aga Khan Health Service, Pakistan.
Pakistan has a high demand for telemedicine services as there are geographical barriers to healthcare access, particularly in remote areas. Additionally, inefficient traditional healthcare visits, long waiting times at clinics and health care facilities, significant travel distances, limited doctors, and unavailability of medicines at pharmacies also create barriers to healthcare access. Elaj Asan provides access to secure medical video conferencing, data sharing services, appointment booking, a secure payment portal and allows users to order and track pharmaceutical goods and their deliveries. Through the chatbot service, Elaj Asan will allow users to identify and access a doctor based on symptoms, book an appointment, find the nearest health facility, access other crucial health information and avail home-based health services
Chat Service: Coach Berry
Cranberry are solving a problem to end the cycle of pain. Cranberry is an AI Health Coach to ease Indian women’s period pain and PMS by tackling the barriers of access, stigma and behaviour change. Coach Berry, Cranberry’s chat service, provides menstrual coaching, by recommending personalised habits and remedies based on their specific symptoms and lifestyle. These help relieve the pain and prevent it in future. Once the user chooses a healthy habit to build, Coach Berry connects her with a small peer group of 20 women who have chosen to build a similar habit to motivate her and will send a weekly, personalized, easy-to-do action for this habit. Coach Berry also answers specific questions in a personalised way as it is backed by a medically verified and empathetic language model. With AI for scale, Data for personalisation and Community for human touch, Coach Berry is a personal menstrual coach for life from puberty to menopause with a mission to change the health of women one period at a time.
Female Reproductive Health
ImpulsoGov is spearheading the development of a revolutionary 100% fee-free healthcare system in Brazil, targeting the country's public health challenges, particularly the alarming number of preventable deaths, including 6,000 women annually succumbing to cervical cancer due to inadequate screening. Focused on leveraging recent legislation and the widespread use of electronic medical records in Brazil, ImpulsoGov has created a complimentary data product, enabling cities to identify and track women in need of screening. To address low digital literacy among healthcare workers, their chat solution utilises WhatsApp to send reminders and step-by-step guides. In the second phase, the chat service directly reaches out to women falling behind on cervical screenings, as demonstrated in a successful pilot program that saw a 120% increase in screenings. Scaling this nationally could potentially prevent over 2,000 deaths annually. ImpulsoGov is at the forefront of transforming healthcare accessibility and outcomes in Brazil.
iWill stands as the premier digital mental and wellness health platform in India, addressing the critical underservice of over 600 million individuals in India when it comes to mental health, reproductive, and self-agency wellness. As a comprehensive for-impact platform, iWill offers clinician-led digital care, AI-driven multilingual preventive programs, and seamless integration with tertiary care to cater to both rural and urban populations. The organisation has already positively impacted over 600,000 individuals, with 98% being first-time recipients of mental health support, including half from marginalized rural and semi-urban communities. Recognising the widespread use of WhatsApp by 800 million people in India, iWill has extended its clinician-led program to the platform through the Chat for Impact Health Accelerator, employing clinically validated scales to pair individuals with suitable therapists and programs. With the objective of reaching more than 20 million people in the next three years, iWill aims to consolidate its position as a key player in last-mile mental wellness delivery through WhatsApp.
Nigeria faces a significant challenge in infant mortality, contributing to 2,300 deaths of children under five daily, primarily attributed to vaccine-related causes. With 2.5 million children missing immunisations annually, accounting for 30% of the world's unimmunized children, the root issues lie in poverty and a lack of immunization knowledge. HelpMum addresses this problem with its digital immunisation solution, starting with the HelpMum Vaccination Tracker. This tool digitally registers nursing mothers throughout Nigeria, replacing the current paper-based system and enabling government tracking of immunisation across states. The integration of the HelpMum Chatbot into the Vaccination Tracker enhances communication, enabling WhatsApp reminders and direct inquiries. The chat solution also integrates with HelpMum's AI Innovation Adviser, utilising AI to analyze collected data and predict barriers to immunisation. Early results indicate a preference for the HelpMum Vaccination Chatbot over SMS, with 67% of nursing mothers attributing immunisation actions to the chatbot's reminders.The HelpMum Vaccination chatbot also offers an incredible feature known as location assistance services. This feature aids nursing mothers in locating the nearest hospital or primary healthcare center, ensuring convenient access to immunisation services for their children no matter where they are in the world.
Embracing the African proverb, 'it takes a village to raise a child,' HelpMum invites collaborations to collectively impact millions of Nigerian children, ensuring they reach the age of five and beyond.
Koko, addressing the urgent youth mental health crisis, confronts a disturbing reality revealed by a CDC study that over 22% of US teens contemplate suicide. Recognising the critical need for timely mental health support, Koko aims to transform online platforms where millions of young people seek help daily. Traditional platforms can often exacerbate mental health issues, but Koko's innovative approach intervenes during searches for harmful content. By offering immediate access to their peer support service and other interventions, Koko aims to redirect individuals onto healthier mental health trajectories with a single click. Users attest to the platform's unique benefits, emphasising its accessibility, anonymity, and the sense of connection it fosters. Backed by robust evidence, including multiple peer-reviewed papers and randomised controlled trials, Koko has impacted over 2 million individuals. Testimonials underscore its life-saving impact, exemplified by a user expressing gratitude for the service that "saved" them from a suicidal state. Koko envisions a future where free, mental health services like theirs become easily accessible to every young person, reflecting a broader mission to safeguard an entire generation.
Rocket Health (Uganda)
Rocket Health pioneers telemedicine with integrated last-mile laboratory and pharmacy services in Uganda. In a country where 50% of the population incurs a $30 cost per encounter for Private Outpatient Healthcare, Rocket Health aims to revolutionise healthcare delivery by tapping into the potential of telemedicine and Chat. With 70% of Outpatient Healthcare deemed suitable for telehealth, Rocket Health's automated chat service, accessible through WhatsApp, provides real-time telehealth consultations and medication ordering 24/7. Patients, including those with chronic conditions, can conveniently order and refill medications. The chat service's structured sequence guides users through selecting and accessing the desired service, complemented by eCommerce functionalities for medication and product orders. Rocket Health's strategic approach ensures accessibility, affordability, quality healthcare, scalability, and adaptability. Future plans include expanding their services on WhatsApp to cater to at least 500,000 patients annually, with subsequent scaling across additional East African countries.
Chat Service: Vyasa
Wysa, an AI-driven mental health chatbot, has already reached over 6 million users across the world, with 380 humans attributing Wysa to helping save their lives, and a vision to positively impact 50 million lives by 2030. In India where 150 million adults grapple with mental health disorders and access to psychologists is limited (0.07 per 100,000 people), 80% of the Indian population lacks proper treatment. Wysa's Hindi chatbot, Vyasa, addresses this gap by providing accessible mental health care around the clock, maintaining user anonymity and ensuring data privacy. Vyasa employs simple Hindi language for user comprehension and offers clinically validated tools to provide empathetic and just-in-time support effectively. Initiating a conversation, Vyasa crafts a storytelling narrative to bolster resilience and guides users to a healthcare toolkit repository in their local language. The chatbot also integrates emergency helplines for urgent and SOS situations. Looking ahead, Wysa aims to leverage the widespread use of WhatsApp in India, with 500 million users, 41% of whom communicate in Hindi. Research indicates that 65% of young adults prefer mental health support through WhatsApp, positioning it as a platform for Wysa's democratised, inclusive, and scalable mental health solution. To achieve this ambitious scale, Wysa seeks partnerships with public health bodies, donors, governments, and implementing organisations to take this to users who need it the most.
Vida Plena (Ecuador)
Vida Plena is on a mission to address the mental health crisis unfolding in Latin America, where a staggering 33% of respondents in a Wellcome Trust Foundation poll reported experiencing significant episodes of severe anxiety or depression—the highest rate globally. Based in Ecuador, a country listed by Gallup among the bottom ten worst countries in the world for mental health , Vida Plena provides critical care in a context where the national Ministry of Health ministry allocates only 0.04% of its budget to mental health.
Utilising a model which has over 15 years of proven results and is endorsed by the World Health Organisation for low-resourced settings, Vida Plena establishes small therapy groups guided by trained local facilitators. Vida Plena’s pilot studies reveal impressive results, with 76% of participants reporting a clinically reduction in depression levels over eight weeks. With the development of a chatbot, Vida Plena aims to expand outreach, offering self-screening, depression symptom information, and details on nearby support group meetings. The organisation plans to scale this service nationwide within five years, ultimately treating 50,000 people annually. Vida Plena's primary goal is to democratise evidence-based mental health care throughout Latin America.