A friend who is also involved with the International Rescue Committee, told me about solar phone chargers that also work as lights. They are being sold and distributed in the third world and refugee camps as a solution to lack of electricity. A portion of sales in the US are used to subsidize affordable prices for the product in the third world. The product is called Waka Waka (which means light in Swahili). I immediately ordered one from Amazon ($65), and I am enthralled. Not only did the device come in a simple cardboard sleeve (no plastic!) the instructions were all diagrams. After leaving it in my window sill for a few hours, I hooked my 30% battery smart phone up through a USB cable and watched as it recharge it completely in about 15 minutes! The device is design at its best: simple, durable, elegant.
My experience with the Waka Waka has ignited my thoughts about how we can bring these elements to health care. Like the Waka Waka, techniques and practices that have been developed for places with few resources, are now being eyed by those in the US not only as a way to contain costs, but also to achieve better outcomes. For example, recent press about heart surgery in India has the attention of doctors, policy makers and payors in the US and Europe. Simplicity can take on many different meanings when it comes to health care, from simplifying medication regimens, to coordinating care and health information technology. However, the goal should be a happier, healthier and more satisfied patient population.
As we think about the future of US healthcare, lets think Waka Waka: Let there be LIGHT!
-Jennifer Brokaw, MD