The journey for the Center for Public Health and Development (CPHD) began in 2008 when Dr Bernard Olayo was overseeing the deployment of technology and services for newborn and under-5 in resource-constrained settings for GE Foundation’s programs in Africa. The idea though was born years earlier when Dr Bernard was doing his internship in Suba, a group of remote islands in Western Kenya.
Dr Bernard grew up in a small village in Kenya and received his medical degree from Moi University in Nairobi. He was familiar with rural Kenya, but nothing prepared him for his experiences in Suba, which was one of the areas with the highest prevalance of HIV in the country. The facilities and the staff were just not equipped or trained to handle the situation. Dr Bernard decided that the need for a competent person was more imminent in public health. He accepted an opportunity to do masters in public health from Harvard School of Public Health. He lost his job with the Kenya Government while he was abroad and had to depend on the goodwill of his mentors and their friends to complete his studies.
He returned to Kenya without any job. That was a boon for international development agencies—from the Millennium Villages Project to Marie Stopes to GE Fooundation—and his work gradually became more and more about healthcare technology. Irrespective of the country of work, one thing became clear: it was imperative to train health workers and manage healthcare technology in order to improve the health outcomes in the region.
The creation of CPHD and its journey since then has been powered by key partnerships. This has been true for garnering funding support (from GE Foundation) and as well as for building the CPHD core team. Some members of the key leadership have closely worked with Dr Bernard way before CPHD was set up. Such partnerships have been crucial for the organization, which believes initiatives based on collaborations and disruptive thoughts in making development happen. Dr Bernard's deep understanding of the public healthcare sysems of several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have also helped CPHD break with tradition and adopt market-driven approaches. Other partners that have come on board include the Ministry of Health in Kenya, ELMA Philanthropies, Grand Challenges Canada among others.
The organization's work has involved assimilating learning from the field across several countries, looking at failures and successes, developing insights into the complexities and nuanced issues in the systems to find new ways to bridge gaps. What has emerged from this is the critical need to build local capacity to deal with Africa’s most persistent problems in healthcare. While doing this, the organization has successfully created 2 social enterprises, each tackling an area of neglect in public health, with both complementing each other. Today, Hewa Tele brings hope for facilities seeking medical oxygen while MediQuip Global is the troubleshooter for all equipment related concerns.