Blue Health Ethiopia - Focusing on Preventive Medicine


Focusing on preventive medicine rather than curative would change the landscape of Ethiopian health care, said Binyam Alemu CEO and Co-Founder of Blue Health.

Many medical professionals live through various incidents while working in the hospital. Some profound incidents instigate a change in their worldview. To expect all these stories to be positive would be naïve. For some, events take place to validate their choice of profession. For others, however, it is, unfortunately, the opposite. Blue Health Ethiopia has such a story. Co-founder Dr. Binyam Alemu was kind enough to share their story with Loline.

Blue Health was founded with a noble mission to promote health and well-being by providing the best care to the general population. It is about promoting preventive medicine. Blue health aims to create a skilled community through advanced research and access to knowledge.

Every person has a turning point when they realize their purpose in life; for Dr. Binyam, that came in the form of a patient. “During my internship, I had a patient who got hit by a bajaj at the gate of the hospital. In an attempt to get the woman from the accident site to the ER, the good samaritans mishandled her, which unfortunately led to her passing away.” This experience led Dr. Binyam to think. And along with his friends and co-founders of Blue Health, Dr. Elias Tadesse and Dr. Kebron Zerihun, who had similar encounters, he set out to do something to overcome the problem.

After that, Dr. Nathan Mulubrhan, an Emergency and Critical Care Specialist at Haramaya University, came into play. Dr. Nathan, co-founder and integral part of the team, was in the process of writing a book on the subject of first aid titled “የቅድመ ህክምና እርዳታ”. This book was imperative for the development of Blue Health Ethiopia and would later be used as a manual for the Derash app.

Adam Getachew, an experienced android and web developer and co-founder of Blue Health, developed a mobile and web app called Derash. It helps equip the general public with emergency telephone numbers and shortcodes for ambulance service, fire and rescue, and similar numbers, which are vital in sudden accidents. Conjointly, the app provides quite an array of information on the dos and don'ts of first aid. We can take it as a handbook for a person to be permitted to give first aid or emergency assistance. The app is also integrated with google maps and displays the closest health facilities.

You may have heard the term 'Golden Hour' here and there. In the medical community, it refers to the time it takes an injured or sick person to receive definitive treatment from the time of injury or trauma. “In Singapore, a country with the shortest average golden hour, it takes 15 minutes for an individual to get to a health facility and receive treatment. In Sub-Saharan African countries, on the other hand, it takes up to 2 hours.”, Dr. Binyam says with visible astonishment. He goes on to explain, “A person is expected to receive treatment within an hour of an accident; even then, survival chances are low.” This could, at least in part, be accounted for by the condition of transportation difficulties in Ethiopia.

Being medical doctors themselves, Blue Health founders are well aware of the problems in the Ethiopian health sector. Dr. Binyam explained how failing to work on and promote preventive medicine has a detrimental effect on the health and well-being of the population. A truly influential moment in the inception of Blue Health Ethiopia was the inspiration the founders got in an interview with an American cardiac surgeon. “I've saved 150 people through surgery. Had I worked in prevention, I would have saved 150 million people”. This resonated with them, validating their devotion to the cause. Focusing on preventive medicine rather than curative would change the landscape of Ethiopian health care.

Curious about the name, Loline asked how it came about. Dr. Binyam excitedly explained color psychology. “The color blue calls to mind feelings of calmness and trust.” They picked the name deliberately for this specific reason; to associate the start-up with health, wellness, and trustworthiness by the public.

Blue Health Ethiopia has taken it upon itself to equip individuals with basic emergency training. Within a year of launching, the organization has trained close to two hundred individuals and nine construction affiliated and delivery companies. Moreover, targeting the next generation, it initiated a summer program where high school students could learn basic first aid. In all its training, Blue Health makes sure to distribute the manual “የቅድመ ህክምና እርዳታ”. You can also find the book in Mega bookstores around the country in two languages, Amharic and Oromiffa.

Founded by a group of 5, Blue Health has expanded its team by hiring 15 medical doctors who first came in looking for internship opportunities. Blue Health employees work in an exciting and dynamic environment, training individuals who want to better themselves. By next year, the organization plans to hire 50 medical doctors in a training capacity. “We want to create jobs and opportunities for professional growth.”

Speaking of professional growth, The Ethiopian Medical Association has accredited Blue Health Ethiopia as a CPD (Continuing Professional Development) provider. Dr. Binyam told Loline that, so far, the company has conducted eight seminars providing CPD for health professionals. “Health professionals need to update their knowledge, and providing this Continuous Professional Development is a pride of Blue Health.” He goes on to add, “It has a large audience, and the reception is great.”

“The Ministry of Health aims to train 200,000 trained first-aiders in the next five years. They can only achieve this by partnering with private organizations.” Dr. Binyam tells Loline the importance of government partnerships for sustained success. Orbit Innovation Hub and Summer Media are the major private partners of Blue Health Medical Consultancy. Additionally, the organization has partnered with Addis Cardiac Center and made it possible to donate funds through the Derash app.

Loline inquired where Blue Health saw itself in 10 years. Dr. Binyam replied, “As I see it, Blue Health will be the center of excellence in emergency aid training. Not only this, we plan to build a large emergency facility with all the furnishings, including an air ambulance.

“Think outside of the box.” Considering the numerous problems that the country has, Dr. Binyam tells those who want to join the field to think outside the box to find solutions. He encourages medical school graduates not to get demotivated by the job market. He believes that they should instead focus on creating solutions to the issues they witness every day.

You can find “የቅድመ ህክምና እርዳታ” for ETB 100-120 at Mega Bookstore.

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