The young innovators improving the health of their communities

These social entrepreneurs are empowering young people to make better health choices
Their initiatives are raising standards of healthcare in their communities
and creating positive change for marginalised groups.
AstraZeneca's Young Health Programme (YHP) has identified young social entrepreneurs who they believe will bring about meaningful, sustainable change in their communities.
The YHP works with stakeholders, from the grassroots to the global level, to elevate young social entrepreneurs who have started their own health advocacy groups, charities and small enterprises.
Each of these future leaders has identified ways to engage their communities with healthcare. In doing so, those young people hope to bring health benefits to others, with a particular emphasis on marginalised groups.
For example, understanding and responding to the health challenges faced by young people requires a gender-sensitive programme, say some of the future leaders. Young men and women need a different approach when it comes to health and wellbeing.
Some of the leaders have found solutions to problems that will help deliver healthcare to marginalised groups irrespective of their age. In Bangladesh, for example, studies show the rural poor have prolonged emergency response times because of the poor distribution of ambulances.
Six future leaders are profiled below - and you can hear them in their own words by pressing the "play audio" button.
Mazbahul Islam, co-founder of Safewheel
Mazbahul of Safer Wheels ambulance service
Bangladesh has a problem with scarcity of ambulances, says Islam. Serving the country's population of 180 million people is a fleet of only 1,200 ambulances, most of which are held near hospitals in the capital city Dhaka.
But 60% of Bangladeshis live in rural areas. For those people, getting to hospital by ambulance can be prohibitively difficult. "It takes 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even one hour to move from one district to another and we have 64 districts in total," Islam says.
To address this, Islam and his colleagues have designed "tricycle" ambulances – small, three-wheeled, motorised vehicles – that cost one tenth as much as conventional ambulances and are at home on busy streets and narrow village roads. Through their company, Safewheel, Islam and his colleagues are training local workers, who are not medics, to be full-time tricycle ambulance drivers. Safewheel focus on training and employing young people who are in danger socio-economically, to address youth underemployment in rural Bangladesh.
Once the endangered person calls into a village shop or calls the driver directly, they will drive them to the hospital quickly. By having small, nimble ambulances decentralised across Bangladesh, they aim to cut ambulance waiting times and save lives.
Juliana Busasi, founder of Tanzania Health and Medical Education Foundation (Tahmef)
Juliana young health adovcate
In Tanzania, the poorest households benefit the least from primary healthcare relative to how much they need those services. Access to healthcare is a major challenge, particularly for people from "the rural poor, the indigenous populations, and people living with chronic illnesses," says Busasi.
Having seen the disparity in outlook for marginalised communities in Tanzania, she founded Tahmef before becoming an AstraZeneca YHP Scholar in 2020.
Tahmef's main activities involve delivering health education, health screening services, and linking families in marginalised communities with affordable health insurance. Busasi's team of 10, made up of doctors and social workers, do this by connecting their community of volunteers to local authorities to help spread their message. To date, they have reached more than 12,000 Tanzanians in six different regions.
Aditi Sivakumar, a medical student at Dalhousie University Medical School, Canada and founder of the "My Empowerment" packs and platform
Aditi young health advocate
The World Health Organization estimates that one in three women globally experience gender based violence at some point in their lives. A further 50,000 women were estimated to have been killed in 2017 by a partner or family member in one large study from the UN.
"Knowing that this was an issue that affected people in my community, and people I really care about, is what led me to create the My Empowerment Platform," says Sivakumar.
Sivakumar's mission has expanded from handing out information packs with blankets, socks and hygiene kits, among other supplies, to domestic violence shelters for women and children in her home region of Ottawa, to encompass a nationwide digital campaign that she hopes to launch internationally. Her next challenge is to connect to women in hard to reach communities, whether geographically or because of low internet connectivity.
Ngwashi Christabel, full-time doctor and founder of the MoreThanJustAnMD Initiative, Cameroon
Ngwashi young health adovcate
As a full-time doctor with a particular focus on maternal adolescent reproductive and child health, Christabel has seen first hand the effects of mis-information in the communities she serves.
She was motivated to launch MoreThanJustAnMD after seeing a young girl admitted to her hospital who had become pregnant, and subsequently fell ill, because her friends told her pregnancy would cure her menstrual cramps. That patient's story was just one of many examples from Christabel's career that show how limited healthcare education is in war-affected parts of Cameroon. Some doctors have fled those areas, Christabel says, and those that remain work with limited resources.
Through social media, radio and TV, Christabel hopes to bring basic healthcare education to the most remote and vulnerable people in Cameroon.
Bruno Helman, founder of Running for Diabetes, Brazil
Bruno young health advocate
Helman began Running for Diabetes to spread the message that living with diabetes is not a barrier to regular physical activity – in fact, exercise is essential to staying healthy. He soon found, though, that other people wanted to run with him. His marathon trainer also lives with diabetes, while his endocrinologist and nutritionist were inspired to join him. Soon Helman had organised a group, and the purpose of Running for Diabetes changed from spreading a message to getting more and more runners involved. He says he believes "YHP is really important because it not only provides us with the tools needed to become better leaders, but also bring the opportunity of collaborating with high level organisations."
Roy Dahildahil, co-founder of #MentalHealthPH, the Philippines
Roy youth advocate
In the Philippines, young people struggle to find support for their mental health, says #MentalHealthPH co-founder Dahildahil. The ratio of mental health workers per person in the Philippines is two to three per 100,000. Meanwhile, at least 3.6 million of the 100 million population live with mental health conditions. Dahildahil works to solve what he calls the three "S" barriers; self, society and systems. Young people with mental health issues often live in denial, feel dismissed by their peers or healthcare professionals, and lack resources to find the help they need, he says. Through regular conversations on social media and on-the-ground events, Dahildahil and his co-founder Lawrence Joy dela Fuente are hoping to address the stigma attached to mental health conditions.