Crowdfunding Global Health
Clearly, the crowdfunding model in isolation is not the whole answer to funding healthcare in low-income countries. For starters, investment is needed not just in individual treatments or patients, but in staff and systems and infrastructure, and it needs to be sustainable, strategic, and large scale. Crowdfunding adopts a ‘who can tug your heartstrings (and purse strings) most effectively’ approach rather than using a needs assessment to strategically identify where limited funds can be most efficiently and effectively used to address population needs.
But there is also space for new funding approaches. In a health system with sparse resources, not everyone can receive the treatment they need, and particularly in developing countries, donations are welcomed. But many of these donations are earmarked, often to prevent and treat highly publicized diseases like HIV/AIDS or malaria, whereas less money flows in to help people who have health conditions that richer countries, for diverse reasons, have deemed lower priority. Crowdfunding has the potential to give a much-needed boost to these less ‘sexy’ health problems, and the approach can empower local healthcare providers to access funds for their specific, local priorities through the Internet.
If everyone who needed treatment featured on a crowdfunding website, the administration would likely become overwhelming and confusing, with demand for funds outstripping supply. There are questions of how to rigorously screen those who want to add their cause for crowdfunding, how to ensure the money goes to exactly where it is supposed to, and of the ethics of showcasing vulnerable people on the Internet. It is not a perfect solution.
But for the many who suffer physically, mentally and socially debilitating symptoms from illnesses that could be easily treated with funding that others across the world are ready and willing to give, the internet provides hope – and inspiration. Crowdfunding is inspiring a new generation of donors today. It may or may not emerge as a key future funding strategy for global health – but is already reaching some of the people who need help most.
Layla McCay is a medical doctor and global health specialist, with a special interest in global health technology and innovation. She has worked across health policy sectors, from the World Health Organization and the World Bank to International NGOs and the British Government. She teaches international health at Georgetown University. You can find her on Twitter
According to Wikipedia, crowdfunding is “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet”. This relatively new phenomenon has helped bring all manner of products and projects to market, and now global health is joining in. In this installment of Digital Diversity, Layla McCay – a member of our Media and Research Team – explains how.
Digital Diversity is a series of blog posts from kiwanja.net featuring the many ways mobile phones and other appropriate technologies are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives.
By Layla McCay
The Internet is changing the way ordinary people do philanthropy. Until recently, if we wanted to donate our money to help people in low-income countries, pretty-much our only option was to contribute to the funds of an NGO or charity working in a particular field.Rarely did we get to direct precisely how our $20 would be spent. But donation is getting specific, and it’s getting personal – and it’s thanks in part to the rise of crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding, which means getting a group of people to contribute towards funding a —> Read More Here