Aisha a middle aged lady woke up one morning in her home city of Abuja, Nigeria. She’s a mother to 2 small school aged children and runs a small retail shop selling everyday essentials in her neighbourhood. This morning was different to other mornings. She woke with an uncomfortable banging in her head. She felt tired and lethargic and couldn’t stay warm even though it was sweltering outside.
She felt like she was coming down with something, malaria maybe she thought to herself. She mustered the strength to get her kids ready for school and herself ready to go to her shop. While browsing twitter she came across a retweet on her timeline that read: ‘test and treat malaria in 15 minutes at a pharmacy near you’. She clicked on the link attached to the tweet and landed on wellahealth.com
‘Feeling sick?’ the website asked. ‘Why yes’ she thought. She ticked the boxes of symptoms that corresponded to the ones she felt. ‘It could be malaria’ the website told her.
She was then given the option to book a rapid malaria test at a pharmacy near her. Booking could be done online or via whatsapp. She chose the latter option and paid with her card online. She was sent the location of a participating pharmacy via SMS and attended later in the day to receive her malaria test. Her test was positive for malaria just as she thought it would be. The pharmacist handed over a malaria care pack that included an anti-malaria drug, some paracetamol to relieve pain and fever, and some information on malaria. She left happy and content at the ease at which she could manage her malaria. It beat waiting for hours in a clinic or just going to buy drugs without the assurance of a test to confirm malaria.
This new service that Aisha used is the brainchild of Dr Ikpeme Neto, an internal medicine physician and digital health entrepreneur. Malaria is the leading cause of death in Nigeria and with over 82 million cases annually, places a huge burden on the productivity and wellbeing of its people. Malaria is endemic in Nigeria. People who suffer from repeated bouts often don’t test for it prior to treating. This lack of testing can lead to treatment failure and the development of drug resistance.
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Dr Neto decided to create a solution to make testing and treatment more accessible to the public in local community pharmacies.His software company, Wella Health, had already built up a strong network of pharmacies via their product that helped pharmacies manage patient communication and promote retention and adherence to treatment.
Wella Health’s malaria solution helps partner pharmacies procure genuine malaria test and drugs, package malaria kits. They also provides logistics support to get kits to where they’re needed. Beyond this, they also spread the word to the public to attract people who display symptoms of malaria.
A diverse and wide network of pharmacies means many Nigerians are now able to gain convenient, timely access to rapid malaria testing and treatment at nearby locations in their community. Dr Neto has ambitions to scale this solution to millions of Nigerians to reduce the risks that malaria poses to their lives and livelihood.