Gwen Gage is an industrial design graduate from Pratt Institute in New York. Most recently, she completed a summer fellowship at IDEO CoLab where she worked with emerging technologies to address the topic of children’s nutrition. For her project, Gage was committed to using her design skills to help a community typically underserved by designers. Focusing on the topic of malaria prevention, she began her process in rural Senegal where she found that access to medications in remote regions is often severely lacking. She believes that in order for such projects to have lasting impact, it is vital that the solutions are realistic given the limitations of the setting. She therefore focused on a solution that would be cost-effective, easy to distribute with limited infrastructure, and intuitive to use with minimal guidance. Gage designed an inexpensive tool for transporting boxes of medication on a bicycle and organizing medicine in clinics. The tool is lightweight enough to be easily included in existing malaria medication shipments. This project recently made the shortlist for the Dezeen Awards 2018, Transport Design.
Project: Malaria prevention
Her master’s thesis explored issues with the current system of malaria prevention in sub-Saharan Africa. This project investigated the “last-mile” delivery of medication to the most remote villages. Due to poor national infrastructure, the burden often falls on individual villages to retrieve their own medication from larger towns on a volunteer basis. As a result, rural areas are often without medication for weeks at a time.
Pictured here is the life cycle of malaria. On the left is the individual’s experience with the disease – getting bitten, falling ill, and receiving treatment. On the right is the cycle of medication delivery that occurs on a rolling basis throughout the year. Medication travels from larger to smaller cities by decreasing sophistication of transport, ultimately being delivered by foot or bike to the most rural communities.
Right now, volunteers are limited to using whatever they already own, like a backpack, to transport the medication. This restricts their carrying capacity to only a few boxes. It was my goal to provide these volunteers with a tool that would make their work more convenient and efficient.
Volunteers may have to travel long distances on foot or by bike. The medication they carry may have to serve hundreds of people in a village.
To avoid burdening the volunteer by requiring them to purchase an extra product, I focused my intervention on the manufacturing level. My tool is a simple addition to existing packaging that would be included inside the shipment of medication boxes.
I designed a thin plastic strip that can be easily shipped with medication from the manufacturer. The strip can be cut to any length, filled with boxes, and rolled to secure. The rolled unit can be easily strapped to a bike or carried on a volunteer’s back, allowing the volunteer to transport dozens of boxes on each trip.
To secure the units to a bike, a person needs only a small bit of rope or bungee cord (something commonly used on bikes in the region).
Once it arrives at the village health hut, the strip can be used as an organizational tool. Hung on the wall, it serves as a visual record of how much medication is in stock. This will allow volunteers to more easily plan when they need to pick up more medication.