News and stories

Celebrating 3 Years of Healthy Heart Africa in Tanzania

Jul, 2021

In Tanzania, the Healthy Heart Africa program embeds hypertension screening and treatment into routine healthcare visits to ensure that pregnant women are screened and have access to the care needed to treat their conditions. By teaching healthcare workers how to identify hypertension and hypertensive disorders in their patients, and empowering them to manage their own health, the program also keeps healthcare workers healthy. Now, as we transition screening and monitoring to the local Government for long-term sustainability, we are celebrating the culmination of three years of program success.


Since 2018, Touch Foundation in partnership with the Healthy Heart Africa program, has worked with AstraZeneca and Bugando Medical Centre, along with 21 healthcare facilities in Tanzania, to improve hypertension screening and treatment to improve the health status of healthcare workers and pregnant women.


Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. This disorder is especially dangerous to pregnant women and newborns and is responsible for 16% of maternal deaths worldwide.


In the last three years, the Healthy Heart Africa program in Tanzania has:

  • Trained 437 healthcare workers on hypertension management, and screened 931 healthcare workers for hypertension
  • Screened over 76,000 pregnant and postpartum women for hypertension
  • Diagnosed and/or referred for treatment 1,631 women with hypertension
  • Donated screening equipment such as stethoscopes, blood pressure machines, and scales
  • Continued life-saving screenings despite COVID-19 with the use of digital health technology (learn more here)

To ensure the program’s sustainability, we’ve worked closely with regional leadership and healthcare workers to ensure screening and hypertension management is maintained. Healthcare workers will continue to prioritize hypertension screening during health visits, and this practice will remain embedded in antenatal and postnatal care. We are incredibly grateful to all partners who contributed to this program’s success and to those who will ensure its enduring impact on maternal health.


Hypertension screening training for healthcare workers to ensure program sustainability

A Solution to Expand HIV/AIDS Services

Jun, 2021

Touch is committed to expanding access to HIV/AIDS services across sub-Saharan Africa. Studies show that though the region contains 12% of the global population, it bears 71% of the global burden of HIV. Sub-Saharan Africa also faces a severe healthcare worker deficit. To stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to enable equitable access to care, healthcare workers must be allocated efficiently. We used our Prioritization and Optimization Analysis (POA) algorithm to help Data.Fi and USAID build a user-friendly tool that allocates healthcare workers providing HIV/AIDS services. POA supports USAID, the President’s Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the CDC in their work to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.


To treat people with HIV/AIDS and stop the spread, healthcare workers—such as doctors, pharmacists, and community health workers—must be placed where they can most effectively serve those in need.


That’s why Touch collaborated with Data.Fi and USAID, using the algorithm from our POA tool, to create a Human Resources for Health Needs and Optimization Planning Solution. It helps our partners understand the existing need for healthcare workers and to assign them where they are needed most.


Achieving the United Nation’s goal to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 is ambitious but attainable, requiring coordination and partnership across sectors and countries. Touch is proud of our ongoing partnership with USAID to set healthcare workers up for success, and glad to have worked with Data.Fi on this crucial Solution, which will improve lives for years to come.


Read more about the HRH Solution in Data.FI’s Solutions Brief here.

Welcoming our Newly Appointed Executive Director

Feb, 2021

Touch Foundation is pleased to announce that Massimiliano Pezzoli has been appointed Touch Foundation’s Executive Director.


Massi has been with Touch for over 8 years and has effectively led our program efforts for most of that time. Under his program leadership, Touch has built an extraordinary program team and has successfully developed and implemented programs that have improved access to healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa. He has played a major role in in both Touch’s geographic and programmatic expansion.


Celia Felsher, Touch’s President and Chief Executive Officer, said “We are very excited about Massi stepping into the position of Executive Director. Massi will now be responsible for all of the programmatic and operational functions at Touch, working with me and the Touch Board in leading our efforts to continue increasing our impact across sub-Saharan Africa.”


Before joining Touch, Massi was a Senior Manager at McKinsey & Co., where he spent four years serving major clients in the private health sector and in government and regulatory authorities across Europe, America, and the Middle East. Massi holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, an Executive MSc in Health Economics, Policy and Management from the London School of Economics, and an MSc in Aerospace Engineering from the Polytechnic of Milan.


Lowell Bryan, Touch’s Chairman of the Board, stated that “Massi has continually shown his commitment to Touch and our mission and we are looking forward to working with him in his new role.”

Touch’s Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals with POA

Sep, 2020

Touch Foundation is committed to achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focusing on strengthening health systems to ensure a better and more sustainable future for all. We believe that healthcare workers are the ultimate drivers of SDG 3 (ensuring health and well-being for all). When designing and implementing programs like Prioritization and Optimization Analysis (POA), we collaborate with global actors to ensure long-term, locally led change that supports the equitable distribution of healthcare workers and accelerates the realization of the SDGs.


The COVID-19 pandemic has solidified what many of us already knew: healthcare workers, in adequate numbers and with the proper mix of skills to meet the needs of the communities they serve, is a nonnegotiable part of ensuring health and well-being for all people, everywhere (SDG 3). We created POA (Prioritization & Optimization Analysis) to improve the allocation of limited healthcare workers given the demand for health services, as well as real world budget and supply constraints. Using this tool, governments in sub-Saharan Africa and other health workforce planners can deploy healthcare workers to facilities and communities with the greatest need.


Since our inception, Touch Foundation has supported the training of over 6,000 healthcare workers and we’ve used POA, with the support of local governments and PEPFAR, in 4 sub-Saharan African countries to allocate members of the health workforce where they’re needed most. These essential workers are at the heart of achieving SDG 3.


Though significant progress has been made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we still have a long way to go, and countries in sub-Saharan Africa face some of the largest deficiencies in health access. This region carries nearly one quarter of the world’s disease burden while possessing only 3% of its healthcare workforce and only 1% of its financial resources for healthcare. Now, more than ever, given the dramatic setbacks caused by COVID-19, we must buckle down on our collective action over the next 10 years to achieve the health-related SDGs. Working towards good health and well-being will be the keystone in achieving all 17 Goals, from gender equality to decent work and economic growth.


Training, effectively allocating, and supporting healthcare workers is key to achieving nearly every SDG target related to health and well-being. These include ambitious reductions to the global maternal mortality ratio and neonatal mortality rates, ending the AIDS epidemic, and strengthening emergency preparedness and response. With healthcare workers equitably distributed, and thus facilities better staffed, more services become readily available, making it far easier for patients to access care.


To have a sustainable and catalytic impact, we recognize the importance of collaboration across business, government, philanthropy, and civil society partners. That’s why we’re excited to continue our engagement with the United Nations Global Compact and Every Women Every Child, and continue actively partnering with leaders around sub-Saharan Africa to ensure that healthcare workers can fill in the biggest gaps.


Learn more about our POA program here.


Learn more about our work to promote maternal health here.

2020 Virtual Asante Supper Marks Leadership Change

May, 2020

Members of the Touch Foundation community gathered virtually on May 18, 2020 to honor our Founder and President for the past 15+ years, Lowell Bryan, for his profound leadership and dedication to saving lives and relieving human suffering. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we re-imagined the event and held it online. If you missed it live, not to worry! You can view the event on demand here.


Rik Kirkland, Director of Publishing at McKinsey & Co., moderated our Asante celebration and interviewed Lowell on the urgency COVID-19 adds to the need to address Africa’s infectious disease burden and the potential to deploy digital health at scale to catalyze change in African health systems. The discussion was inspired by a white paper on this topic, which Lowell wrote and which we released during the event.


In the paper, entitled Early Thoughts on Potential of COVID-19 to Promote Digital Health in Africa, Lowell discusses the ways in which digital health has the potential to expand access to healthcare and decrease the infectious disease burden throughout the African continent. You can read the white paper on our website here.


This particular Asante was bittersweet as we honored Lowell for his tireless commitment to Touch Foundation as he stepped down from his position as Touch Foundation’s President. With that, we also welcomed Celia Felsher, longtime board member, who has taken his place. We are thrilled both that Celia has taken on the President role and that Lowell is not going far: he will remain active as Chairman of the Board and on several board committees.


After looking back at our impact over the years and exploring the gravity felt around the world with the COVID-19 pandemic, we ended the night by looking with determination to the future. As Celia said in her closing remarks,

“As has been made abundantly clear from the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are all, regardless of where we live, interconnected, and the strength of healthcare systems everywhere is necessary to ensure the health of all of us. Touch’s work is, therefore, more important than ever.”


You can view the online event here and read more about our programs and Lowell’s history with Touch here.

Getting Health Workers To Where HIV/AIDS Clients Need Them Most With POA

Nov, 2019

Written by Liz Pavlovich, MScPH, Business Development Manager at Touch Foundation. She recently traveled to Mozambique, where Touch Foundation is working with HRH2030 on a health workforce analysis.


HIV/AIDS services start with the health professional. Yet healthcare workers are often in short supply in sub-Saharan Africa – the region of the world most affected by the epidemic. Another major constraint is the limited amount of funding available. Finally, while some advances have been made in collecting and using data on the health workforce providing HIVAIDS services, it is often still challenging to get current, reliable data when needed. Yet, this data can power how the global health community most effectively reaches those impacted by HIV/AIDS to ensure that people are tested, and initiated and retained on treatment.


For 15 years, Touch Foundation has developed innovative and data-driven solutions to the training and deployment of the health workforce in Tanzania and elsewhere. Two major health workforce considerations are the skills mix and the geographic distribution. Five years ago, a representative of the Government of Tanzania revealed to us that they had several tens of thousands of requests from districts for new healthcare workers at facilities across the country, but only a fraction of that to deploy, given the low budget available for staffing and modest number of graduates. A solution was needed to make the time-consuming and challenging process of prioritizing these requests easier. With support from USAID and PEPFAR, Touch Foundation created the POA (Prioritization and Optimization Analysis). methodology in 2015 to guide this decision-making process using data on the actual need and real-world budget and healthcare worker shortages.


Recently, we utilized POA, with PEPFAR funding under the USAID HRH2030 Program, to help inform health worker staffing allocations for HIV service delivery in Mozambique. Working with partners, including USAID and CDC, we set out to help stakeholders use data to determine the need and priority of each and every health worker providing HIV/AIDS services at each PEPFAR-supported facility in all provinces of the country. The ultimate goal was to improve the provision of client-centered HIV/AIDS services to achieve epidemic control in Mozambique, a country with one of the world’s highest prevalence rates at 12.6%[1] and lowest health workforce densities.[2]


The POA methodology is simple, yet the results are powerful.  Novel to stakeholders involved in health workforce planning, POA begins by assessing the total number of healthcare workers needed to deliver HIV/AIDS services. To do this in Mozambique, we mapped—from a client-centered perspective—the different types of healthcare workers involved in the clients’ care and the amount of time required from each healthcare worker. For example, a clinically stable client on antiretroviral therapy (ART) will be seen by a pharmacist at a health facility for 5 minutes every 3 months in order to collect their ART refills. They are also seen by a clinical officer for 10 minutes twice a year for adherence counseling, monitoring of their health, and lab services. If the number of stable clients on treatment served by that health facility goes up, so too does the need for pharmacists and clinical officers. A clear picture of who is involved in the care continuum for HIV/AIDS clients enabled us to quantify the total number of the various cadres of healthcare workers needed. Since we also had data on the current health workforce, we could ascertain the health worker shortage by cadre and facility.


Figure 1. Overview of the POA methodology applied in Mozambique for determining the need for healthcare workers providing HIV/AIDS services, and prioritizing and assigning them based on the budget constraints.


The real innovation of POA is that it prioritizes and recommends assignments for all the needed healthcare workers, taking into the account the limited budgets available to cover their salaries. The needed healthcare workers are ranked so that the top priority assignment is the one that is the most ‘overworked’. For example, imagine a situation where one laboratory technician in a busy facility in Mozambique is struggling to keep up with the viral load testing demands of thousands of clients on treatment, a job for several lab techs. Adding another lab tech at this facility would be much higher priority than a lab tech at a different facility with fewer patients. POA goes through this calculus for tens of thousands of needed healthcare workers to produce a comprehensive ranked list.


While in Mozambique in November, I worked with Touch Foundation staff to orient PEPFAR and CDC stakeholders on how to use the recommendations from POA to decide where to deploy healthcare workers across 595 health facilities. The recommended assignments would cover nearly half of the overall shortage of 18,000 healthcare workers, especially among lay cadres like community and facility counselors. Using POA, implementing partners can more efficiently plan, budget, and staff programs delivering critical HIV/AIDS services.


Through this approach, we improve HIV/AIDS service provision where it’s most needed, by staffing facilities with the optimal quantity and skill mix in order to test, initiate treatment, and retain clients. Data-driven decision-making can bring us closer to controlling the epidemic.


This post originally appeared on the HRH2030 website here.


[1] UNAIDS; 2018 for adults (15-49 years).

[2] CIA World Factbook; 2017 physician density.

Perspectives of a young adult living with Type 1 Diabetes on incorporating patient voices into the NCD agenda

Jul, 2018

On July 5, 2018, Touch Foundation participated in the UN Interactive Hearing on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), held as part of the preparatory process for the UN high level meeting on NCDs this coming September during the UN General Assembly. Dhishana Kidambi, Bard Globalization and International Affairs summer intern at Touch’s New York office, shares some reflections on the hearing and her personal experiences living with Type 1 Diabetes.


“Eat three chapatis (wheat cakes) for dinner, and give yourself six units of insulin. As long as you are at 180 before bed, you should be good to go!” I hardly felt any of my endocrinologist’s optimism; cutting portions seemed like an impossible proposition to make to a 12-year-old living in India.


A few years later, I was at a friend’s house when I was introduced to Dr. Anjana, a pediatric endocrinologist trained and working in New York, who was appalled by the advice my endocrinologist had given me: “You calculate your insulin sensitivity, count the carbs in your food, and then give yourself a dose based on how much you eat. That way, you can eat whatever you want as long as you dose yourself correctly!”


When I later asked my local doctor about carb-counting, he laughed and said, “good luck trying that with a bowl of dal makhani! Carb-counting is impossible to do with Indian foods.” Despite being trained to advocate a carb-counting methodology, he believed, and my experience showed, that it simply could not be practiced in India.


As someone living with a NCD in the Global South, I can say that it is this clash of absolutes between the technical knowledge created and disseminated by multilateral organizations in the Global North and the realities of living in the Global South that make the management of NCDs so challenging. NCDs are often highly individualistic, and the most effective management techniques arise from the integration of lived insight with technical experience.


As part of the preparatory process towards the third High-Level meeting of the General Assembly on NCDs, the interactive hearing consisted of several panel discussions that offered an opportunity to deliberate on the best way to manage NCD care between various stakeholders in resource constrained communities. The agenda of the hearing was to discuss the role of five different areas that will need to be addressed: scaling up action against NCDs, financing, promotion of multi-sectoral partnerships, political leadership, and accountability.


The panels addressed many important issues that could improve action against NCDs, ranging from the need for catalytic funds, massive technology building, a skilled workforce, and multi-sectoral partnerships between the public and private sectors. While panelists recognized that the ultimate goal is to empower people with NCDs to take charge of their health, most consideration is given to political actions that require the cooperation of powerful global actors, highlighting the conflicts between the private and public interests that need to be resolved.  As someone living with a NCD, it felt as though the narratives of people with NCDs, and the value of their insight, needed a more prominent position.


Since its inception, Touch Foundation has focused on strengthening local health systems. This approach recognizes that there are too few healthcare workers and too many breakdowns in national health systems.


The health systems approach taken at the interactive hearing recognized various actors (infrastructure, drugs, regulation, healthcare workers, etc.) as separate entities, rather than a single system in which bonds could be strengthened. Panelists in the sub panel titled “Engaging people with NCDs” maintained that this approach does not effectively recognize sustainability and continues to place people living with NCDs on the sidelines and creates difficulties for people from different cultural backgrounds to navigate the health system.


Creating a system that implements a locally informed approach on a global scale remains an important aspect of addressing NCDs. In this context, Touch Foundation makes important contributions to creating a more holistic health system that is patient-centric. The comprehensive systems approach adopted through programs like Treat & Train offer an effective model to treat NCDs. By optimizing healthcare facilities with the goal of developing local leadership, Touch is able to effectively prioritize all aspects of the healthcare system. This offers a useful framework to resolve the challenges that people with NCDs face, and include the crucial voices of patients that have been missing in the global response.

Celebrating the future of healthcare in Tanzania at our 2018 Asante Supper

Jun, 2018

On May 10, 2018, Touch Foundation’s staff, board members, and guests enjoyed a wonderful evening at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City learning about the future of healthcare in Tanzania while celebrating Vik Malhotra and McKinsey & Company’s enduring commitment to Touch’s work.


We were honored to host the former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete (pictured here alongside Touch President Lowell Bryan & Honoree Vik Malhotra), at this year’s Asante Supper. While serving as President of Tanzania from 2005 to 2015, Mr. Kikwete made healthcare a national priority, greatly expanding the government’s investment in the training of healthcare workers and the expansion of healthcare facilities nationwide.


Mr. Kikwete has been a longtime friend of Touch: his leadership enabled us to enter into a Public Private Partnership with the Tanzanian government and the US government, which remains in place to this day. We were delighted to share our accomplishments and vision for the future of healthcare in Tanzania with Mr. Kikwete, who continues to be a dedicated maternal and child health advocate through his partnership with The Access Challenge’s One By One: Target 2030 campaign, which is aimed at promoting universal health access in Africa.


Sean Ryan, a partner in McKinsey’s Health Care Strategies practice and Touch Foundation’s newest board member, took the stage during the dinner program to share a surprising discovery that resulted from the McKinsey engagement he led in Tanzania’s Lake Zone last November:


“It turns out that making doctors better business-people can help transform medical care. The practices they build will expand access to healthcare in Tanzania, free up capacity at public hospitals, and create new opportunities for doctors across the country.”


The program also included a Q&A session featuring Dr. Isidor Ngayomela, entrepreneur and orthopedic surgeon in Tanzania, who shared how opening his own health facility–Kamanga Medics Hospital–has allowed him to treat more patients while employing more doctors:


“I used to see 100 patients in a day at Bugando, which is a reason why we also started Kamanga. Because the patients were overflowing…some patients will be benefiting from Kamanga because they will be attended to quickly and go back into their working places. And so, in a way, you de-bulk these other government hospitals and so share the patients as well.”


To learn more about Touch’s accomplishments and vision for the future of healthcare in Tanzania, we invite you to watch our Asante Supper video.


Oct, 2017

To ensure that every mother can enjoy a healthy pregnancy and every child survives beyond their fifth birthday worldwide, the UN and World Health Organization launched the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health (2016-2030). This Strategy is promoted by Every Woman Every Child, a global movement mobilizing new collaborations and partnerships between governments, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


Today a woman in Tanzania is still 80 times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than a woman in the United States. Multipartner collaboration and collective action are needed to address the root causes of such a huge disparity. On September 192017, Touch Foundation announced our first Every Woman Every Child commitment at the annual Every Woman Every Child Private Sector-Innovation high-level event, held during the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. We have committed to raising $1 million dollars, combined with other committed funds, to expand the Mobilizing Maternal Health program across eight districts of Tanzania over the next four years to save the lives of mothers and newborns.


Touch Foundation, together with our partners including the Tanzanian government, Vodafone FoundationPathfinder International and D-tree International, will provide over 11,000 pregnant women and their newborns facing a medical emergency with safe, fast, and free transportation. Using mobile phone technology, our transport system is designed to take emergency calls (911-like) from remote areas on its toll-free line, triage a patient remotely 24/7, dispatch an ambulance or community taxi to bring the patient to a health facility, and monitor the patient’s progress from the moment help is called until their discharge. In addition, we will continue to improve the quality of health services in rural areas by training healthcare workers and building infrastructure like c-section theaters and neonatal intensive care units. Our evaluation of the first phase of this program in one of the pilot districts proved that this approach could reduce maternal mortality by at least 27%. Many more mothers and newborns will be saved as we scale up our evidence-based program.


Touch is enthusiastic about our commitment to Every Woman Every Child. We believe this international network will provide valuable global context to our programs and overall work, as we continue to align our mission with promoting the Global Strategy Principles and SDGs. Redoubling our efforts globally, together with our partners, we are moving towards creating the world in which, as the former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon put it, “no woman, child or adolescent would face a greater risk of preventable death because of where they live or who they are.”


Jun, 2017

On May 18th, 2017 Touch Foundation and Vodafone Foundation hosted a symposium in New York City. We invited expert panelists to share innovative evidence-based approaches to improve maternal and newborn health in sub-Saharan Africa and other low-resource settings and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.


The first panel focused on the impact of an emergency referral and transport system (EmTS) on maternal lives saved in Tanzania, which was launched in 2015 by Touch Foundation, Vodafone Foundation, ELMA Foundation, USAID/PEPFAR, and Pathfinder International as part of the Mobilizing Maternal Health (MMH) program. In the first year, the EmTS resulted in a 27% decline in maternal mortality rates and saved many more newborns in two districts. The panel stressed the importance of high-quality data collection to enable quick fixes and targeted resource allocation. The panel stressed, in relation to the EmTS, the importance of critically analyzing the data in order to achieve buy-in from all partners including the Government of Tanzania and to scale in the future. In addition to data, the program’s tangible impact on Tanzanians has bolstered government and community trust.


The second panel, Innovative Approaches to Barriers to Care, featured panelists examining a range of innovative approaches to remove barriers to quality health care for women and newborns. Mutually beneficial partnerships, a systems approach to integrating devices and interventions, and locally-led innovations were three key approaches discussed. The panelists, leaders of international NGOs and medical device companies, emphasized that productive partnerships depend on a generous understanding of each other’s relative strengths and interests. They also recognized that strong health systems and consistent product innovation can promote self-sufficiency. Lastly, they highlighted that there is an opportunity to support local innovation through North-South partnership, resource allocation, and an environment that enables risk-taking.


For further reading on this topic, please see our Mobilizing Maternal Health Impact Report. To read the full Symposium Report Out, click here. Thank you to all those who were able to attend and a special thank you to our moderator, Lord Michael Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE, Global Head of Citizenship for KPMG, and to our panelists: James BonTempo, Chief Strategy Officer, D-tree International; Dr. Siobhan Crowley, Director of Health, ELMA Philanthropies; Dr. Ntuli Kapologwe, Director of Health, Social Welfare & Nutrition Services, Tanzania’s President’s Office of Regional Administration and Local Government; Massimiliano Pezzoli, Country Director, Touch Foundation; Lee Wells, Director, Vodafone Foundation Ventures & Head of Programmes, Vodafone Foundation; Robert Miros, Chief Executive Officer, 3rd Stone Design; Lois Quam, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pathfinder International; Stephen Rudy, Chief Executive Officer, Gradian Health Systems; Andrew Storey, Director, Maternal and Newborn Health, Clinton Health Access Initiative