As a second year MBA student at Harvard Business School (HBS), I was looking for an opportunity to learn about health delivery models that could be applied in Mexico – my home country. I had the fantastic opportunity to get involved with Pro Mujer on a semester-long field study with the objective of helping develop a health service offering for the organization’s Mexico operations.
This opportunity was made possible with the help of an innovative partnership between HBS and Harvard’s School of Public Health (SPH) called Project Antares. Led by Professors Michael Chu of HBS and David Bloom from SPH, Project Antares focuses on sponsoring field studies that look at commercial approaches to delivering high-impact primary health care initiatives (or “interventions” as we call them in the industry) to low-income populations in developing countries. This program provided us with access to the knowledge and advice of two remarkable experts in the field in addition to accessing funding to conduct primary research and visit field operations.
Currently in its fourth year with Pro Mujer and collaborating with Dr. Gabriela Salvador – Pro Mujer’s Director of Health and Human Development and SPH alum – our goal was to create a framework that enabled us to analyze which health offerings are most valued by customers and which ones can have a bigger impact in their lives.
Using this framework as a baseline and a health pilot model already launched in the organization’s Nicaragua operations, Pro Mujer will design a health care pilot within its current organizational structure and business model. This model will include a basket of services that maximize the health impact for Pro Mujer’s clients while balancing it with interventions that have the biggest opportunity to be profitable as well as operationally and financially scalable. If the results of such a pilot are financially and socially positive, we believe there is huge upside potential.
Project Antares brought together the expertise and brainpower of Callae Snively, Felix Lam and Maaz Shaikh from SPH as well as Margarita de la Piedra, José Hartasanchez and I from HBS. Definitely one of the most enriching experiences was working in such a diverse group, both in terms of different backgrounds as well as professional experience and skills. We really learned to leverage one another’s strengths in research, analytics and health practice knowledge.
The project got us dreaming about the fact that if we could either deliver health care to someone who is poor in a profitable way, or through the health offering, enhance Pro Mujer’s competitive position as a women’s development and microfinance organization, we could influence other organizations within the microfinance industry. This pilot as well as the one already at work in Nicaragua has the potential to show that it makes economic sense for microfinance institutions to offer health services. Competition and scalability would then follow.
Whether and when the Mexican pilot will happen remains to be answered and depends on the results of the market analysis currently underway by the Antares team, but the project reminded us of the challenges our world faces and the responsibility as leaders that we have in addressing them. For me, it was a fantastic experience to be able to apply the skills that I have acquired over these last two years at HBS and help an organization like Pro Mujer maximize the positive impact they create for women in Mexico. It was really inspiring to work hand in hand with Pro Mujer’s staff and leadership to understand the challenges that they face on a daily basis.
This project is another example of the field studies supported by HBS’s Social Enterprise Initiative which seeks to ensure that HBS becomes the best place at motivating students to become leaders who make a difference in the world.
Prior to entering HBS, Pablo Salazar worked at Pfizer Mexico for four years in Sales & Marketing. In addition to his involvement with the Antares project, Pablo worked on a field study with GlaxoSmithKline (a valued Pro Mujer partner) to define their long-term strategy in emerging markets. During his time at HBS, Pablo served as one of the main organizers of the School’s XIII Latin American Conference, which gathered diverse leaders interested in the future of the region. Upon graduation, Pablo looks forward to moving to New York and joining McKinsey & Company as a full-time Associate.