Surgo Foundation and CHAI team up for strategic partnership

What if we could make major strides against global epidemics such as HIV and TB by combining expertise in healthcare delivery models in low-resource settings with a deep understanding of what drives behavior? What if we could dramatically reduce the number of children who die from diarrhea by nudging families and caregivers towards correct care-seeking behavior while also strengthening access to needed drugs? These are some of the big questions that drove us – the Surgo Foundation and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) – to set up a long-term, strategic partnership.

In 2017, we launched the first project based on this partnership in Chennai, India, as part of the city’s initiative to eliminate TB.

Surgo Foundation was founded with a key belief that people with limited resources have choices and need to be treated as active customers rather than passive beneficiaries. Surgo’s mission is to catalyze the global development community by developing solutions and tools that put customers at the center of programs. Surgo connects across disciplines and utilizes diverse techniques adapted from fields such as behavioral sciences, market research, data science, and machine learning, to bring a fresh perspective to some of the most stubborn development problems. Bringing its funds, tools, and solutions, Surgo partners with other organizations and governments to help them maximize their success.

CHAI is committed to strengthening integrated health systems and expanding access to care and treatment in the developing world. CHAI’s approach focuses on improving market dynamics for medicines and diagnostics; lowering prices for treatment; accelerating access to lifesaving technologies; and helping governments build the capacity required for high-quality care and treatment programs.

Both of our organizations have similar end goals – help governments save lives, reduce morbidity and mortality, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – but bring a different perspective, approach and expertise. We decided to collaborate for two main reasons: complementary strengths and the ability to bring new, comprehensive approaches to governments we partner with around the world.

1. Complementary strengths: With its global footprint, CHAI works at scale to support governments in solving some of the biggest problems across the public health sector, especially related to access and health systems challenges. Surgo brings strong customer- and systems-centric approaches that help to design more effective programs at lower costs. Surgo will contribute to this partnership by applying its tools and methodologies on the behavior and systems side. CHAI will work in areas of supply, policy and management. Both will work towards achieving the same goal – impact at scale.

2. Bring new approaches to country governments: CHAI plays a key role in helping governments build the capacity of their health systems and is a trusted partner to ministries of health (or equivalent). Both Surgo and CHAI saw tremendous potential to leverage CHAI’s experience working with governments in order to bring Surgo’s expertise, solutions and tools directly to them. Surgo’s tools and approaches can help governments to develop programs that shift behaviors in key areas.

We saw value in moving away from a project-based funding relationship to a longer-term collaboration. It allows both Surgo and CHAI to dynamically adapt to what we learn together on the ground, rather than enter into a contract or grant with set activities identified at the beginning. We recognize that global development takes time and the long term perspective is critical.

Chennai, India represents the first site for the two organizations’ collaboration. As part of the TB Free Chennai Initiative (TFCI), we are helping the local government and its partners to reduce the burden of this million-year old disease which, globally, claims more victims than any other infectious disease. In Chennai, there are approximately 23,000 TB cases that develop annually, of which less than 10,000 are reported to the local government. Unreported cases are either patients receiving care in the private sector, where TB care is unregulated and the quality varies, or are patients who have yet to seek care or were not properly diagnosed. First, we are examining how to get patients to seek care sooner; currently, it often takes patients 4 to 6 weeks after developing symptoms of TB. During this time, they are contagious and may infect others around them. Surgo is leading cutting-edge research to better understand patient and provider behaviors and uncover key points of influence to get patients in the door of health facilities and treated sooner. Once they are in the door, CHAI, and the consortium of partners under the TFCI umbrella, are helping doctors to make diagnoses faster and more accurate by training them to recognize the signs of and test for TB as well as improving access to best-in-class diagnostics.

This is just the first of many programs that Surgo and CHAI hope to work on together. We are actively looking at other global challenges where our combined expertise can drive impact.