Consider the logistical nightmare of disaster response—coordinating medicine, supplies, and personnel in desperate conditions. Think again about ongoing health crises in places like Kenya, where one out of every 38 women dies while giving birth.
Getting help where it's needed might be a simple matter of packing the whole clinic into a shipping container.
This is just what start-up social enterprise G3Box is doing. A team of four Arizona State University students is producing its first two portable clinics, modified freight shipping containers outfitted with medical supplies; on- and off-grid power hook-ups; ventilation; insulation; access to potable water; and optional add-ons like solar power and air conditioning. One of the clinics, a maternity suite promised to the nonprofit Sustainable Resources Limited, will be stocked and shipped to Kenya with birthing supplies and beds for two mothers.
"It'll definitely be different than the doctor's office in the United States," says Gabrielle Palermo, a biomedical engineering student and the company's COO. "But it's a step up from what they already have. The women are used to giving birth on the floor, in very dirty conditions, so we're trying to provide a very safe, clean place for them."
G3Box—Generating Global Good, in a box—has already raised $150,000 for start-up through donated services and materials, plus another $35,000 from entrepreneurship grants. While grappling with practical matters, like electrical wiring and setting up plumbing for sinks, G3Box is also busy growing partnerships with construction companies, medical equipment suppliers, and international healthcare organizations. Those human connections will help build up what they can pack into the box.
"What we're doing right now is looking at the option of providing a kind of turn-key solution, so if someone calls us and asks for a clinic, they get the clinic and all the equipment that goes inside it." Palermo adds, "They might even get the staff for it."