On The Ground

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Healthcare for the Forgotten: Sehat First in Chashma Goth

DSC00684.JPGThis past Saturday, Sehat First held an inauguration ceremony for its first health clinic in the village of Chashma Goth, a remote fishing village on the coastal outskirts of Karachi.

Sehat First is a social enterprise that provides quality health consultation services and pharmacy services to lower income communities. Each clinic provides healthcare support to patients using an e-sehat (health) tele-consulting application that remotely links up doctors and specialists with their patients via the Internet.

Remote. That is what really resonated when I saw the location of the village. Even though it was only thirty minutes outside Karachi, the population was sparse with limited access to many social services like health facilities and education centers. These are the forgotten communities where ghost health units and primary schools are established and then neglected.

This point was further reinforced when Ms. Zahara Khan, Sehat First’s CEO, made her welcoming remarks at the ceremony. There is a strong need for access to doctors and lower cost medicines, especially in Pakistan where the number of available doctors per patient is incredibly low. In this scenario she says, “It is imperative to use emerging technologies to connect healthcare providers in far flung areas with medical experts in urban centers.” In this rural community where access to emergency services in non-existent, Sehat First is providing primary healthcare, post-natal care and innovative links to medical specialists.

While the main innovation of Sehat First remains its tele-health kiosk linking patients to doctors, what will really make this enterprise go the distance is its financially sustaining business model. Sehat First pairs a basic health facility with a pharmacy and a small general store that carries simple household goods. And while the main draw for the community are the health services, the accompanying general store help drive revenues with the potential to make the clinic center financially viable. This will be a learning experience for Sehat First and Acumen Fund on unique business models that operate in challenging environments.

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