New York, NY (December 1, 2016) – TED, the nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, has announced Dr. Raj Panjabi as the 2017 TED Prize winner.
Dr. Panjabi is an Associate Physician in the Division of Global Health Equity at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Last Mile Health, which aims to expand access to health services for those living in the world’s most remote communities by partnering with government to recruit, train, equip, manage and employ professionalized “community health workers.” While the organization focuses on preparing health workers to meet the needs of daily health challenges, the capacity they create within health systems can be leveraged in moments of crisis. This is precisely what happened during the Ebola crisis, when Dr. Panjabi’s organization supported the Government of Liberia’s response and trained over 1,300 health workers and community members on infection prevention and control at 38 clinics to help tackle the epidemic in southeastern Liberia.
The TED Prize is granted each year to an exceptional individual with the capacity to solve a timely, pressing problem. The prize is $1 million to create a high-impact global project. It is “a wish” offered without restriction, and an opportunity to dream big while building on work they’ve already begun. In addition to the monetary award, TED shares its global network of innovators, entrepreneurs, and TEDx organizers who can help bring the winner’s wish to fruition. Dr. Panjabi’s success with Last Mile Health made him a clear choice for the 2017 TED Prize.
“In choosing the TED Prize winner, we look for seemingly intractable global challenges, where the TED community can move the needle,” said TED Prize Director Anna Verghese. “Right now, one billion people lack access to healthcare because they live too far from a doctor or clinic. Dr. Panjabi and his team of community health workers have proven it possible to deliver world-class care in some of the most remote areas of the planet. It’s an honor to name him as the 2017 TED Prize winner, and offer our community’s support when he launches his audacious vision at the TED Conference in April 2017.”
Dr. Panjabi started Last Mile Health in Liberia, the country of his childhood. Born of Indian parents living in Liberia, he fled to the United States as a child during Liberia’s civil war. Once peace was reached, he returned as a physician to volunteer in remote rural communities and committed himself to ensuring that no one in Liberia would ever die because they lived too far from a doctor.
With a small team and $6,000 he received as a wedding gift, he began to recruit, train, equip, manage, employ and empower community members to provide healthcare in their own communities. Since its humble beginnings, Last Mile Health has grown to provide care to tens of thousands of patients. Most recently, Last Mile Health has directly supported Liberia’s Ministry of Health and its partners to launch a National Community Health Assistant Program that will train and employ over 4,000 professionalized community health workers to provide care to 1.2 million men, women and children that have historically lacked access to services because they live too far from a health facility. This program is a testament to the vision and commitment of the Government of Liberia to ensure a more resilient health system in the wake of the Ebola epidemic.
“Global health crises are top of mind right now, whether in New York City or rural Africa,” said Dr. Raj Panjabi CEO and Co-Founder of Last Mile Health. “These crises remind us that illness is universal but access to care is not. The TED Prize offers a unique opportunity for Last Mile Health to help change this by working with some of today’s greatest thinkers and doers to expand access to healthcare for people who need it most. I’m honored by this prize and excited by the opportunity to amplify the work of inspiring community health workers serving patients around the world.”
Between now and the 2017 TED Conference (April 24-28 in Vancouver, BC), Dr. Panjabi will work with the TED Prize team to create a bold wish that builds on his success. He will share his vision live from the TED stage during the conference. The talk will be broadcast for free via TED.com.
About the TED Prize
The first TED Prize was awarded in 2005, born out of the TED Conference and a shared vision of the world’s leading innovators gathered there to launch global projects with the potential to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.
The original prize: $100,000 and the TED community’s range of talent and expertise to make a “wish for the world” a reality. What began as an experiment to leverage the resources of the TED community has evolved into a prestigious $1 million award for an ambitious effort to spur change at the global scale.
From Bono’s the ONE Campaign (’05 recipient) to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (’10) to JR’s Inside Out Project (’11), Charmian Gooch’s call to end anonymous corporations (’14), StoryCorps Founder Dave Isay’s wish to take the platform global (’15), the TED Prize has helped to combat poverty, take on religious intolerance, tackle child obesity, advance online education and save the world’s archaeological heritage.
About Last Mile Health
Founded by the survivors of Liberia’s civil war, Last Mile Health saves lives in the world’s most remote communities. The organization specializes in the development and management of professionalized Community Health Workers who bridge the gap between health systems and remote communities, bringing critical services to the doorsteps of people living in the last mile. Last Mile Health’s programs are implemented hand-in-hand with community members, local government officials, national policymakers, and global partners to ensure sustainable impact. Last Mile Health is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization with offices in Liberia, Boston, and New York. For more information, visit www.lastmilehealth.org.