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Stephanie Koczela, Co-Founder of Penda Health (INTERVIEW)

— December 10, 2011 — Social Good
We've previously featured Penda Health, a Kenya-based social enterprise that delivers a range of high quality medical services and products just for women. Unlike other clinics in the region, Penda charges patients a small fee -- not too much that it becomes unaffordable to low and middle income women, but enough to ensure the provision of top quality care -- and to make the model sustainable.

In the interview below, Penda Health co-founder Stephanie Koczela shares a touching anecdote about a mother and child that fueled her drive to become a social entrepreneur, she shares where the business model came from, and she offers her playful secrets to staying inspired.

4 Questions with Stephanie Koczela

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
Low and middle income individuals in developing countries are seen as only being able to access healthcare services if they are free, and yet this same population spent billions of dollars on healthcare in 2006 (WHO). The problem is that the quality of the services available is extremely low.

Penda Health believes that by working with factories in industrial areas of Africa, we will be able to increase the client to health provider ratio in such a way that we will be able to keep costs lower than typical health clinics while also remaining committed to the provision of quality services.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?
My co-founders and I have all been working with the low and middle income sector of Kenya for the past 3-5 years. We have collectively seen a need for improved access to quality healthcare for this segment. Each of us has personal relationships that have been affected by the lack of access, and this frustrated us and made us wish things could change.

In June 2011, we stumbled across a study that was done by USAID that showed that if the Kenyan government were to spend $71 million on providing access to family planning services to the Kenya population, it would save the country $271 million over the next 10 years on other social sectors such as maternal health, water and sanitation, malaria prevention, etc. This study inspired us to want to provide increased access to family planning services specifically.

We started talking to women to see if there would be anything we could do to improve access to quality healthcare and how best to improve access to family planning services. After talking to 1,000 women, we decided that we would be able to provide high quality and increase access by opening a chain of small health centres, and Penda Health was born.

3. How do you get your inspiration?
My personal inspiration came from a little baby named Lucky. Lucky was born to a 20-year-old single mother who was sick when she got pregnant, which lead to him being born 3 months premature. His mother passed away when he was 2 months old.

Once Lucky's mother died, Lucky was taken by his grandmother to a government hospital for care. He got sicker and sicker there. I found him after he'd been there for 3 weeks and was likely to pass away within 48 hours. I got the government hospital to release him and rushed him to a private hospital, but it was no help. We spent thousands of dollars trying to undo the harm done by the low quality care he received in the previous hospital days. In the end, he passed away despite receiving excellent care for weeks before his death.

It broke my heart and infuriated me at the same time. It's unacceptable that the quality of health varies so much depending on how much money you can pay. And it infuriates me that his mother will not make the impact that she might have made in Kenya just because she did not have access to birth control.

It was in the wake of Lucky's passing that I felt inspired to dive head-first into making Penda Health a reality.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I love to go running with a friend of mine in Central Park. It helps me clear my head and get ready to dive back into my work when I am overwhelmed. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I like to lie on the floor and throw a ball up in the air when I am trying to think through something. A bit strange... but it works for me! :)