Saving Lives in Mali
The words “Health can’t wait” are on the website of the Drapers Richard Kaplan foundation. This foundation helps fund the upstart Muso Health, a venture philanthropy group. The statement captures the essence of the Muso Health mission: to deliver healthcare quickly and affordably to people living in poverty. By taking a unique approach to healthcare, Muso Health is saving lives in Mali.

Muso Health uses a proactive health care model; health care workers receive training to seek out, diagnose and treat patients in local communities. Unfortunately, children can die from malaria within 48 hours of contracting it. The Muso model increases the likelihood a child will get treatment in time.

The Origin

A coalition of Americans and Malians founded Muso Health in 2005. The tragedy of child funerals moved the founders of Muso and motivated them to make health care more accessible. Therefore, they began a simple operation of volunteers, dedicated to saving lives in Mali.

Volunteers assist the communities in Mali’s capital city, Bamako. The organization has expanded since 2005; the Muso Health website boasts that it has “grown 2000-fold.” At the beginning of 2020, an additional 50 new Community Health Workers (CHWs) joined Muso Health.

Muso’s CHWs are a group of local Malians who provide in-home health care. Most CHWs are women, and Muso means “woman” in the Bambara language of Mali. Muso Health chose its name, in part, because of the common Malian expression, “If you educate a woman, you educate her family, her community and her entire country.”

The Approach

Muso is saving lives in Mali through proactive community case management. This strategy consists of three main steps. First, Community Health Workers identify and diagnose sick individuals. If possible, the workers treat the illness on the spot. If not, they refer the patient to a clinic. Therefore, Malian families do not have to seek out treatment and diagnosis.

Muso Health also addresses obstacles to healthcare, including cost. Its door-to-door service eliminates transportation fees for the patient and their family. Additionally, Muso Health removes point-of-care fees, so even the most impoverished families can receive care. Lastly, Muso helps to boost Mali’s public health sector by expanding infrastructure and training providers.

The Impact

Muso was able to visit 358,379 homes during the first quarter of 2020. From January to mid-April of 2020, it treated 92% of peri-urban patients and 67% of rural patients within 24 hours. Thankfully, these efforts seem to be paying off. Studies suggest that Muso Health is having a positive impact on Mali.

A 2018 study in BMJ Global Health shows that the areas where Muso Health operates have seen the lowest rates of child death in Sub-Saharan Africa for five consecutive years. The study demonstrated that the child mortality rate was originally at 15.5%. After Muso interventions, the study found that the child mortality rate dropped to 1.7%. In making health care free, the health care costs shifted to Muso and the Malian government. This change only costs the Malian government an extra $8 per person.

Looking Forward

Ultimately, there is a high demand for innovative health care organizations like Muso Health. According to Muso CEO and Co-founder Ari Johnson, “The World Health Organization has estimated that 100 million people every year are driven into poverty by health-care costs.”

Although larger studies are necessary to determine whether the Muso model will work on a greater scale, Muso Health has been successful in Mali. Johnson and his team have received numerous awards for their work in saving lives through innovation. These awards include the 2014 UNICEF Innovation Challenge Award and the Harvard Presidential Scholars Public Service Award.

–  Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr