AROGYA WORLD USES INNOVATIVE THINKING TO ADDRESS NCD PREVENTION
For Nalini Saligram, founder and CEO of Arogya World, addressing chronic or non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is a defining passion. This passion has carried her around the world, working with a variety of leading pharmaceutical companies and global health nonprofits including Merck & Co. in Philadelphia, GlaxoSmithKline in London, Hill & Knowlton in Hong Kong, and Merial in Atlanta.
In 2010, Saligram made the decision to break out on her own. Using her knowledge and international work experience she founded Arogya World, an organization that, in her words, is working to “turn NCD awareness into on-the-ground action” by focusing on prevention. Through engagement with CGI, Arogya World has developed a promising network of partners from policy, business, science, and civil society, and its work today reflects this growth.
Chronic Diseases: A Global Challenge
Non-communicable diseases include diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung diseases, and cancer. They are responsible for two out of three deaths today, 80 percent of which occur in low- and middle-income countries. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) maintains that many NCDs can be prevented by eating a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, and avoiding tobacco use.
Making Preventative Care Accessible
Arogya World is focused on addressing diabetes in Saligram’s country of origin, India, where the prevalence of diabetes increased tenfold between 1971 and 2000. With half a billion people under the age of 25, India is a powerhouse of future consumers and workers. Most of this group is healthy now, but if they become sick the economic cost will be significant.
Arogya World recognized that—in order to prevent this from becoming the case—young people must learn how to prevent disease while still healthy. With approximately 975.78 million cell phone users throughout India, many of whom are under the age of 25, mobile technology presented one of the best strategies for moving the needle on this issue. But this project would need a platform that could help it reach its full potential. For Arogya World, that platform was CGI.
AS OF MAY 2015, INDIA HAD MORE THAN 975.78 MILLION CELL PHONE USERS, MANY OF WHOM ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 25.
FINDING THE RIGHT PLATFORM LEADS TO SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIPS AND STRONG RESULTS
In many ways, Arogya World’s first Commitment to Action—“Diabetes Prevention with mHealth in India”—was also its first major project as an organization. Having already begun conversations with Nokia to be the mobile partner for the project, Saligram’s familiarity with CGI led her to apply for membership, which she felt would help accelerate and increase the impact of her work. In June of 2011, Arogya World was accepted as a CGI member, and the mDiabetes project became its first commitment.
Arogya World worked to finalize its commitment proposal in time to be launched at CGI’s 2011 Annual Meeting, which brought global attention to the organization’s efforts. With the support of its CGI affiliation, it was able to secure a powerful network of partners, including Nokia, Emory University, Johnson & Johnson (LifeScan Inc.), Aetna International, and Synovate (now Ipsos). Each played a critical role in the successful development and implementation of the commitment.
Designed as a population-level nationwide public health intervention, the commitment uses mobile technology to establish disease-preventing health behaviors. In 2012, Nokia and Arogya World recruited over one million individuals who opted in to receive free mDiabetes text messages twice a week for six months. In conjunction with Emory University, over 50 text messages were developed based on science and behavior change theory. Arogya World adapted the messages for India’s culture, and Nokia transmitted more than 56 million mDiabetes text messages to consumers throughout 2012. Arogya World assessed the program’s effectiveness by comparing responses of 950 consumers—collected during telephone interviews—before and after the mDiabetes messages were received. These responses were also compared to a control group who did not receive the messages.
AROGYA WORLD'S 2011 COMMITMENT—"DIABETES PREVENTION WITH MHEALTH IN INDIA"—HAS REACHED MORE THAN ONE MILLION INDIVIDUALS WITH DIABETES AWARENESS AND PREVENTION TEXT MESSAGES.
Analysis is ongoing, but more than 10 percent of mDiabetes participants have reported making and maintaining healthy behavior changes that are known to prevent diabetes. With its newfound confidence and recognition in the NCD space, Arogya World is applying lessons learned to make more commitments; and its experience in large-scale project execution, partnership engagement, and process methodology is helping to build commitments that creatively tackle NCDs in new ways.
FUELED BY THE SUCCESS OF mDIABETES, AROGYA WORLD SCALES ITS EFFORTS
In 2012, recognizing the potential of workplaces to prevent chronic disease, Arogya World began to develop another commitment—an award that would honor and recognize Indian employers for their healthy work environments. Previously, Arogya World held workshops to create criteria for the Healthy Workplace Awards and its recognition in the NCD community helped garner partnerships with Aon, the Public Health Foundation of India, and the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.
Arogya World launched this project as its second CGI commitment—“Healthy Workplace Awards to Prevent Chronic Disease in India”—strategically using the timing of CGI’s 2013 Annual Meeting to usher in more applications, including GE Healthcare India. Together, the employers competing for the first year of the award have over 50,000 employees. “This commitment is truly a partnership between a civil society organization, the private sector, and knowledgeable partners to create a culture of workplace wellness,” Saligram explained. “If the culture changes, it will lead to health changes. This is pioneering work in India.”
CGI Commitments to Action made by arogya world
Girls and Women as Part of the Solution
Saligram believes that girls and women are a major part of the solution to the NCD crisis. They are often the caregivers for their families, and they make decisions about food and activity level that can directly impact NCD prevalence. Through Saligram’s involvement with CGI's Girls and Women Track and the NCD Action Network—and with the support of CGI staff to determine the measurable parameters of the project—Arogya World decided to make a third commitment: “10,000 Women’s Voices Help the Fight Against NCDs.”
—Jurgen Brokatzky-Geiger, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility, Novartis
Launched at CGI’s 2013 Annual Meeting, this commitment aims to implement a quantitative survey of 10,000 women in 10 countries to gather women’s perspectives on NCDs. Arogya World brought in Novartis, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, American Cancer Society, UNICEF, Population Services International, Abt SRBI, and Jana to partner on the project, and CGI staff continue to assist with securing additional partners and finding ways to draw world attention to the issue. The final commitment results will be shared with the United Nations and used to establish NCDs as a women’s issue and as a family issue, putting a human face on the NCD crisis.
Nalini Saligram, Founder and CEO of Arogya World, at CGI's 2013 Annual Meeting