Next Health Accelerator for SRH and Self-Care

Next Health Accelerator harnesses the promise and potential of entrepreneurs with solutions to the most pressing challenges in health today, particularly in Sexual and Reproductive Health. We are looking for African talent that sees the individual as an active agent in accessing healthcare and achieving her health goals. We welcome entrepreneurs who believe in normalizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and who have scalable solutions to do so. We are looking for the startups that understand a shortage of 18 million healthcare workers by 2030 is both a challenge and an opportunity to increase access to self-care solutions that provide health seekers autonomy for diagnostics and/ or treatment. 

Sexual and Reproductive Health is an expansive term including most stigmatized health issues, all of which are burdens for women to bear: contraception, abortion, menstruation, childbirth, and menopause. The issues are numerous, and the incidence is cyclical and multiple for each girl worldwide. These issues are common for women such that females are constantly managing them. Too often we struggle with sexual and reproductive health issues in silence, in shame, in unawareness, and even in danger. Next Health Accelerator aims to change this. Beginning in Africa, this initiative is leading a movement to create sexual and health wellness for women and girls by supporting startups that dynamically understand the problems women and girls face and boldly undertake the solutions to these problems.

On the surface, the Sexual and Reproductive Health challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically, can be quantified.  The region has a population of 1.4 billion (2020), which is expected to increase to 1.9 billion by the year 2035 (Population Reference Bureau), 50 percent of whom are intimately, frequently, and consistently managing issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health. Think of something as common as menstruation. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 130 million people menstruate daily, yet one in ten girls misses school each day due to period poverty (UNICEF). Next Health Accelerator aims to solve this, and other problems for women and girls across the region.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, modern methods of contraceptive prevalence are 32 percent, with huge disparities from Chad, at five percent, to Zimbabwe at 66 percent. Further studies reveal that a steady abortion rate of 33/1,000 women means that as the population increases, the numbers of annual abortions also increase to 8M per year at present. Laws are not liberalizing as quickly as necessary to save women, however due to advancements in abortion technology health outcomes are improving for women (Guttmacher).

What is more, two-thirds of all maternal deaths worldwide occur in Sub-Saharan African.  Two hundred thousand women needlessly die of pregnancy and childbirth-related causes each year, with a maternal mortality ratio of 533 maternal deaths per 100,00 live births. 

The social and systemic challenges to improving these statistics can be daunting but we know intrepid entrepreneurs who intimately understand these obstacles will surmount them with ingenuity and determination. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified “an urgent need to find innovative strategies that go beyond a conventional health sector response.” As we recruit entrepreneurs for the Next Health Accelerator, we will pay close attention to those solutions that prioritize self- care, as defined by the WHO: “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.”

Self-care health interventions are evidence-based, quality drugs, devices, diagnostics, and/or digital products that can be provided fully or partially outside of formal health services and can be used with or without the direct supervision of health care personnel. Some well-known examples include:

  • Self-Injectable Contraception: Reduces unintended pregnancies annually among the 74 million women and girls living in low-and-middle-income countries
  • Self-testing for HIV:  Ensures early access to care and treatment, if needed, and reduces the mortality rate of 770,000 people who died in 2019 from AIDS-related illness
  • Self-Collection of Samples: For sexually transmitted infections (such as chlamydia and/or gonorrhea), self-collecting samples improves testing and linkages to treatment, if needed
  • Self-Management of Medical Abortion: Reduces the number of women who die every day from unsafe abortions

The Next Health Accelerator exists to create Sexual and Health wellness, reaching beyond existing boundaries to ensure women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to Sexual and Reproductive Health. We are here to make a global impact and to advance the wellness of women and girls across the globe.