Malaria diagnosis apps, telemedicine, electrocardiography apps. In the past three decades, human innovation has skyrocketed. While these innovations have changed the way we live, work, and communicate, some global challenges remain unaddressed, specifically health challenges. How can we channel our curious and innovative energies towards improving human health around the world? How can we convene brilliant, innovative minds to begin to tackle major health issues? Health Hack Accra leads by example.
At a 48-hour competition beginning on August 26, 2016 in Accra, Ghana, students, teachers, doctors, and others gathered to develop innovative ideas, models, and products to address global and local health challenges. As the first health innovation hackathon in West Africa, Health Hack Accra targeted issues that most affect local communities and individuals with the intention of eventually scaling the solutions to other communities worldwide.
Sponsored by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and hosted at Impact Hub Accra, this hackathon supported 24 teams made up of over 120 participants with the common goal of creating sustainable, scalable products and businesses to make significant impact in one of four challenge areas: Maternal and Reproductive Health, Connectivity and Access to Healthcare, Non-Communicable Disease, and Infectious Disease.
Emily Sheldon, Director of Health Innovation at Impact Hub Accra, and John-Paul Parmigiani, Co-Founder of Impact Hub Accra and CEO at the time of the event, were two members of a larger team that supported health hackers throughout the competition. From organizing a de-stressing yoga class to 4:00 AM snack deliveries, the Health Hack Accra Impact Hub team went above and beyond to ensure participants had everything necessary to be curious and innovative.
It was the passion and interest of the participants that made the hackathon so successful, as Emily Sheldon explains, „Creativity is inherent in a low resource setting.” The participants in the hackathon were from Accra and surrounding areas, making them more familiar with local problems and the local infrastructure for solutions. With limited resources, these individuals are familiar with the need to think of new ways to solve their daily challenges. At Health Hack Accra, participants had to think outside the box in order to develop practical, implementable solutions to large-scale problems.