A thriving and healthy human population is essential for ensuring a sustainable world. Out of the UN’s list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is fair to say that one of the most heart-wrenching and urgent topics, particularly as we experience a global pandemic, is the one addressed by SDG #3: ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all people at all ages.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only caused the obvious suffering related to a sudden, widespread illness, it has also impaired the ability of our health care systems and services to deal with many other health-related challenges. With resources diverted to the pandemic response, we are seeing new outbreaks of other deadly diseases such as TB, HIV, and malaria. Vulnerable populations such as women, children, lower socioeconomic strata, and the elderly, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, exposing the structural weakness of our economic and health systems.
Complex Problems Require Innovative Thinking
Although some advancements towards the ambitious goal had been achieved in various health areas prior to 2019, the disruption caused by the pandemic has now slowed progress and even reversed some gains made. According to a recent survey by the WHO, about 90% of countries and territories still report one or more disruptions to essential health services. Due to the unprecedented strain on global health systems, the amount of resources being diverted to the pandemic response, and the added burden of sporadic lockdowns disrupting regular access to healthcare facilities, technological innovation has never had a bigger role to play in working to overcome these challenges.
Impact Investments in the Health Sector
While addressing the unique challenges of this SDG certainly requires the leadership of governments, a combination of creativity, expertise, technology, and financial resources is necessary to completely achieve the aims of the SDG. Indeed, Impact Investors are hearing the calling: according to Pitchbook, $39.5B was channeled worldwide into health care services companies with impact targets from 2017 through March 2021. Health is the second strongest sector for impact investments, after energy.
SDG 3 & Israeli Tech
Although some of the technological solutions required to address these pressing issues already exist, they still require rapid commercialization to achieve large-scale implementation and there is an immediate need to expedite the innovation and commercialization processes, in addition to adapting legislation and lifting other practical barriers.
Israel’s innovation ecosystem is well-positioned to address the particular challenges associated with this SDG: The following solutions are only a taste of the technologies being developed in the country.
- Maternal Health: Heramed provides connected pregnancy monitoring solutions for in-home use, which were originally aimed at consumers as an OTC wellness product. The company has started working with hospitals, including in emerging markets like Brazil, Turkey, and India, to bring remote pregnancy monitoring to rural hospitals which lack expensive professional equipment.
- Combating infectious diseases:
- Keheala operates a mobile healthcare infrastructure that utilizes behavioral science for addressing the non-medical drivers of disease that exist outside of clinical settings. The company operates in Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, and plans to expand into many additional African and Asian countries. Its current use cases include TB and HIV, as well as other non-infectious diseases.
- Nearly 700 million people contract mosquito-borne illnesses each year, causing more than one million deaths. To address this growing health risk, a number of Israeli companies are tackling the spread of mosquito-borne diseases including Forrest Innovations, Diptera.ai, Must-Quito, Senecio Robotics, Westham Co., and Zzapp Malaria – who recently won the IBM AI XPrize.
- Facilitating access to basic health care and coverage: eWave MD, a well-established Israeli company, offers telemedicine solutions for primary care in remote areas, remote consultation and monitoring, and more. MobileODT developed an optical diagnostic technology for women’s health; its connected portable colposcope can be used for remote diagnostics and consultation everywhere, helping detect cancer at its earlier stages, among other health conditions. A similar solution developed by Illumigyn enables women to carry out remote gynocoligal examinations and consult with physicians anywhere in the world to help with early detection of cervical cancer. The company recently signed a contract with Nigeria-based PeraMare Enterprises to distribute 20,000 devices. K Health is disrupting the American market with its 24/7 mobile healthcare platform that is also accessible for the uninsured population. The company has raised $274M in funding and has a valuation of $1.6B (a true ‘unicorn’ company).
The SDGs and the Israeli tech ecosystem
Start-Up Nation Central elevates the Israeli innovation ecosystem to meet the growing global demand for sustainability solutions and cultivates global partnerships that create business, social and environmental value on the ground. We are deeply committed to improving the conditions for SDG-related tech companies to shine.
Start-Up Nation Central has built a classification framework that translates all 17 of the SDGs into indicators/challenges that can be addressed by leveraging technology, and that are intuitively investable. This allows us to identify the startups – and the more mature tech companies – that are incorporating the importance of a positive contribution to sustainable development into their core mission and strategy.
Visit Start-Up Nation Finder to identify and connect with more than 1,200 SDG-related Israeli startups. Read our past blogs and find out how Israeli providers of ClimateTech and FinTech solutions are helping achieve other SDGs.
Lena Rogovin and Sigalit Lidai contributed to this post