Healthy Entrepreneurs: Access to Basic Healthcare in the Rural Areas of Kenya

Provision of basic healthcare products

Joost van Engen was shocked when he personally witnessed the limited access people in rural areas of developing countries have to basic healthcare products and services. Therefore, he founded Healthy Entrepreneurs, a company which provides basic, affordable healthcare in remote, hard to reach areas. They are currently operating in four countries: Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana and have reached over 6 million people in rural areas with basic healthcare products. They do this by employing existing volunteer community health workers and training them to become Community Health Entrepreneurs (CHEs). These individuals will ensure that their communities will be getting access to health products and services, and spread awareness.

CHEs invest a small sum upfront for a two-week training program, after which Healthy Entrepreneurs will supply them continuously with products. They receive a mobile phone to facilitate and support them in their work activities. Healthy Entrepreneurs manages an end-to-end supply chain to ensure high quality and reliability of the products they distribute to CHEs. Once a month, cluster meetings are organised during which products are distributed, issues are resolved, and follow-up training is given.



Enlarging outreach and ‘Circles of Change’

As the goal of Healthy Entrepreneurs is to enable basic healthcare for everyone, no matter your background or location. Furthermore, they are always looking for opportunities to scale up. This can be done within the counties they are currently operating in, for example, to different counties in Kenya, but can also mean expanding to different developing countries. The model Healthy Entrepreneurs uses to connect their scale of operating to the societal impact they are making is called ‘Circles of Change’. A CHE will serve one community, approximately 1.500 people, which will lead to an increased awareness of health care among the inhabitants. A group of 15-20 CHEs is called a cluster and will reach over 22.000 people. A region and a district include 75 and 150 entrepreneurs respectively, leading to market and behavioural change with regards to basic healthcare. A district impacts over 225.000 people, which clearly illustrates the reach of impact Healthy Entrepreneurs has when expanding to different regions. Their goals for the future include to have 30.000 CHEs by the year 2022, who will be able to deliver products and services to over 60 million people.



Field Assignment for Healthy Entrepreneurs in Keyna 

From November 2020 to January 2021 a group of three students from the LDE minor, Johanna, Floor and Vivian, will be working from a distance for Healthy Entrepreneurs in Kenya. The research project they will perform is focused on the scaling of Healthy Entrepreneur’s outreach. In order to facilitate this growth it is important to optimise current processes and prepare them for scaling up in the future. Therefore, they came up with the question “How might we enable Healthy Entrepreneurs to upscale their outreach and impact in Kenya?”, which will be the main focus of their field assignment. Specifically, they will assess the recruitment and selection process of CHEs and the process of delivery information and reporting of issues by the CHEs. Both will aid in increasing scalability and impact for Healthy Entrepreneurs.

To be specific, they will design a client-relationship management (CRM) like process, in which issues from the field are properly reported and taken care of. This will enhance the feedback and help the CHEs receive valuable information from the sales officers and will contribute to higher levels of motivation and performance. An addition to this is the FAQ document they will be making, which ensures standardisation of answers to common questions among all employees of Healthy Entrepreneurs. Furthermore, they will write a recruitment and selection manual, in which they try to optimise the recruitment and selection of CHEs. As a part of this they prototyped a survey to test for entrepreneurial capabilities in potential CHEs. 


Frugal Innovation aspects and objectives

What makes Healthy Entrepreneurs frugal is their focus on providing the Bottom of the Pyramid with affordable, reliable basic healthcare products. They do this by enabling individuals to become entrepreneurs by training and equipping them. This approach means there are two beneficiaries from the work they do: the customers who buy the products, but also their own employees. These are largely women, who not only increase their income but also their capabilities as a community health worker. Healthy Entrepreneurs has a valuable impact through operating in this manner, which can be seen in their  roll-out of the doctor at a distance program. Though still working on a small scale, currently, this program can be seen as the culmination of training for CHEs. Participants are able to help manage and treat conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. As a result, access to healthcare is increased for a very wide group of people, achieved by empowering and employing women through a focus on support and training. This approach makes Healthy Entrepreneurs a company with great societal impact in line with five Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including: increased health and well-being, gender equality, clean water and sanitation supply, and ending poverty.



Project Team

Healthy Entrepreneurs

  • Tinka Langendam
  • Germaine van Teeffelen


Academic Supervisor

  • André Leliveld (Leiden University / CFIA)


Student Research Team

  • Johanna Dekker (International Relations - LU)
  • Floor Kloosterman (Business within Liberal Arts & Sciences - EUR)
  • Vivian Meij (Economics within Liberal Arts & Sciences - EUR)