Improving Global Health Through Dialogue And Innovation
30/05/2018 - Impact Hub

How an Impact Hub member is changing the landscape of public health by focusing on the human and behavioural aspects of health solutions.

Meet Stefano Malvolti

We meet Stefano on a sunny day at Impact Hub Zurich. He arrives on his Vespa, eager to share what he’s up to. During our conversation his hands are flying alongside his words as he explains the challenges behind Sustainable Development Goal 3: ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all, at all ages.

Stefano has worked in immunization and communicable diseases for the last decade. During our conversation, he shares his confidence in recent scientific development and technical solutions to understand disease, improve vaccines and medical devices, as well as the data that surrounds immunization’s growing reach in large populations.

However, the human side and soft components around implementing and adopting those solutions, provide him some reasons for concern: “The best medicine doesn’t help if the patient won’t take it. The same applies to high quality programs. If they are not accepted by the population or by the healthcare workers that need to implement them, they won’t work.”

Photography by Luis Laugga

Looking at the behavioural and organizational aspects of health problems is still considered a niche effort. For example, discussions are ongoing on how to increase the number of people reached by vaccination. The United Nations is referring to this as fifth-child coverage, meaning that 4 out of 5 children are reached by the main series of vaccines in the first year of life, and that the number continues to hover around 80%.

To tackle the problem, Stefano emphasizes that it’s not enough to look at characteristics of the medical product or its supply. Other factors also must be taken into consideration such as time, economic constraints of the parents who may not afford the healthcare bills, healthcare workers’ beliefs, the interests of politicians and influence of religious leaders.

The Solution

Based on this realization, Stefano co-founded MMGH Consulting to offer a truly multidisciplinary support framework to health organizations. MMGH combines scientific and technical approaches to health problems with societal, organizational and behavioural aspects. Currently, Stefano’s company is supporting the Global Task Force for Cholera, hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), on building its new strategy.

Through the in-depth study of use cases, MMGH considers behaviour. Scenario-building exercises then help explore what impact future health interventions will have on the overall development and infrastructure in water, sanitation and hygiene long-term. While focusing on health, the models also look at the ramifications in other areas – as economic or environmental impact.

Photography by Luis Laugga

Trust

Another major obstacle in building impactful health solutions is the difficult relationship between the private and public health sector. The world of health is quite special and rather compartmentalized. Each organization has its own way of operating that is not easy to understand for others. Still, the contribution of all parties is necessary to achieve the SDG goals.

MMGH is a bridge-builder between public and private health sectors in the MI4A (Market Information for Access to Vaccines) initiative, a WHO project that aims at balancing demand and supply of vaccines. In this case, establishing a constructive discussion around confidential information on supply is a complex endeavour that first of all requires building trust. This means overcoming a lack of awareness of each other’s goals and constraints.

By playing the role of the knowledgeable and committed third-party broker, MMGH is helping to build this trust.

Serendipity

In regards to building bridges and solutions, Stefano points to the pivotal role played by innovative solutions. However, in a world where the pressure to constantly deliver is high, carving out time to innovate is not an easy task. Because of this, Stefano makes sure that nurturing innovation is part of his company’s DNA. His vision includes having 20% non-billable hours for everyone in the company who leaves room to learn, experiment and be creative while still producing a fair economic return. This also opens up free space for casual lunches and coffees, encouraging serendipity to play out.

For instance, after casually discussing topics over lunch with professionals from different disciplines, within days a workable solution for an important project with the Gates Foundation started to take shape. To Stefano, this links back to the vision of Impact Hub as an open network of people with whom you can discuss ideas, before watching them grow.

At the time of our conversation, Stefano has been an Impact Hub Zurich member for more than 2 years, and MMGH has existed for more than one year.


MMGH’s work to cultivate well-being in Switzerland is contributing to the following Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

SDG 3 

Written by: Sonja Bichsel

Sonja is a senior communications professional, content creator and storyteller based in Zurich. She supports entrepreneurs and professionals in the field of innovation, arts and education to express what they contribute to society with clarity and focus. The stories her clients tell stick, create traction and are heard where they need to be heard for their business or organization to gain visibility and thrive.