Saúde Criança: Holistic Health Solutions for Low-Income Families

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Saúde Criança: Holistic Health Solutions for Low-Income Families

Rio de Janeiro, BrasilRio de Janeiro, Brasil
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Saúde Criança is a non-profit organization that works together with local hospitals to promote the self-sustainability of families with children at social risk.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Childhood illnesses among the poor occur within a larger socioeconomic context in which the conditions of poverty instigate and perpetuate the symptoms of disease. In this environment, acute and chronic medical conditions have severe and long-lasting consequences, not only on the child´s health but on the entire family’s overall welfare as well. Medical treatments are expensive, and even if purchased, are too often rendered ineffective when the child returns back to the meager living conditions that caused his or her disease in the first place to get sick yet again. Families become ensnared in a financially and socially debilitating vicious cycle of sickness, treatment, and relapse, in which the true problem is more than the disease—it’s the underlying poverty.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Saúde Criança aims to break the cycle of poverty and suffering by providing holistic support to underprivileged families to address their total well-being and prevent relapse. It espouses a model of healthcare that transcends the traditional medical perspective of disease as a simple matter of biology and addresses all aspects that contribute to total well-being, including biological, social, and psychological factors. With tailor-made family plans that address several different dimensions of health at once, including health, housing, income generation, education, and citizenship, Saúde Criança´s methodology treats the root of the problem by bringing the family out of poverty. More than a mere donation, the assistance that Saúde Criança provides supports the family for the long-term by empowering them to become economically and socially self-sufficient.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The key to Saúde Criança´s methodology is the Family Action Plan, a 2-year blueprint made in conjunction with the family that outlines all of the major goals the family should aim to achieve in all five pillars of health in order to graduate from the program. The process begins when Saúde Criança’s partner hospital refers the family to the organization after a thorough history to determine if Saúde Criança intervention is necessary. - Health: Saúde Criança provides specialized food, medicine, and technical support to ensure that the child’s chronic or acute illness is well-managed. By the end, every member of the family should be in at least satisfactory condition, as defined by the hospital. - Housing: Homes in poor condition are repaired and refurbished using materials and labor provided by Saúde Criança to have access to basic amenities, such as water, sewage, painted walls, and a roof without leakages. - Income Generation: Family members (particularly mothers) are enrolled in professional training courses where they learn marketable skills that help ensure stable and higher incomes upon graduation. - Citizenship: Saúde Criança provides guidance and legal advice in obtaining official registration documentation, which permits access to government social service programs. - Education: Parents and teenagers attend educational lectures on issues such as nutrition, hygiene, violence and domestic abuse, infant development, family planning, STDs, AIDS, and basic care. In addition, Saúde Criança acts as an intermediary between children and their school counselors.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

To our knowledge, Saúde Criança is the only systematic anti-poverty program developed in Brazil and fully-run by members of civil society. Rather than compete with medical professionals, Saúde Criança complements their services by expanding on their treatments and making them more effective. A similar project, called Health Leads, exists in the United States, with respect to the fact that it focuses on the social determinants of health in order to treat disease for low-income patients. But whereas Health Leads primarily aims to mobilize undergraduate volunteers in partnership with urban clinics, Saúde Criança utilizes a centralized approach that focuses on the family over the long-term. In any case, the two are not competitors but peers in the fight against poverty-induced illness.

Founding Story

While working at one of Rio de Janeiro's largest public hospitals, Dr. Vera Cordeiro often felt helpless and frustrated when children who had been successfully treated and discharged returned to the hospital in worse condition after being reinfected at home. She realized that without changing the reasons the children were getting sick in the first place, any medicine she gave would only be treating the symptoms. Compelled to make a difference, she founded Saúde Criança in 1991. What began as a small operation in which Dr. Cordeiro auctioned off her own bed sheets to buy the first supplies has since become an efficient social franchise that counts 11 chapters in six states in Brazil. Despite early resistance from social workers who felt she was interfering or that she didn’t have any focus, Vera persevered, working with volunteers and listening to the families to refine a comprehensive methodology that offers low-income families greater self-sustainability and self-respect.
About You
Saúde Criança
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Saúde Criança

Organization Country

, RJ, Rio de Janeiro

Country where this project is creating social impact

, RJ, Rio de Janeiro

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Cost, Quality, Equity.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

Saúde Criança aims to provide sick, low-income children and their families with effective long-term aid and break the cycle of admission/readmission. The core problem of poverty is a complex, multidimensional disease that requires an equally broad, comprehensive cure. Thus, Saúde Criança offers a holistic package of solutions that addresses both the biological disease and the socioeconomic factors that aggravate it. The end goal is to ensure the health of the child by lifting the family out of poverty and helping it to become completely self-sufficient.

This methodology has had success in Rio de Janeiro and five other states in Brazil, but Saúde Criança knows it can do more. It ultimately seeks to influence public policy and spread internationally as well.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

With a comprehensive metric developed in conjunction with McKinsey & Co. for evaluating the social impact made in each of the five key areas of health, Saúde Criança has carefully tracked the progress of families within the program from their initial interview to their final graduation. The results of this review program show significant results. Family income increased by an average of 32% while the average number of days of hospitalization was reduced by more than 66%. Considering that the average cost of hospitalization is US $500 per day, Saúde Criança’s intervention results in vast savings for both patients and public hospitals. In addition, before Saúde Criança, only 28% of the children were considered to be in good health, 48% in satisfactory health, and 24% in life-threatening conditions. After families were assisted by the organization, the numbers dramatically shifted to 52% in good health, 41% in satisfactory health, and only 7% in life-threatening conditions.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

To date, Saúde Criança has assisted over 40,000 people. Because of the organization’s transformation into a social franchise in 2010, this number will only continue to grow as the various social franchise chapters become better established. It fully expects to reach over 10,000 more people within the next five years. Indirectly, Saúde Criança will also have an impact on a regional level. It works closely with the municipalities of Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and Florianópolis, which have all adopted its methodology in various pilot public health programs. Belo Horizonte has already invested heavily in the “Família Cidadã: Cidade Solidaria” program while Rio de Janeiro is initiating a similar pilot project (called “Carioquinha Saúdavel”) in several favelas in Zona Sul.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The largest foreseeable barriers are a lack of funds and complications within the bureaucracy of Brazil. To secure greater financial sustainability, Saúde Criança has created a permanent trust fund headed by Armínio Fraga, former president of the Central Bank of Brazil. The organization also fundraises through sales of hand-crafted merchandise, with plans for online distribution as well. Though bureaucracy is Brazil is often slow and rife with internal contentions between departments that potentially may obstruct the development of programs, Saúde Criança is exploring a variety of forms of media (TV, print, and internet) with pro-bono support from the advertising agency DM9 to increase visibility and garner greater political clout.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Major advertising and rebranding campaign to disseminate Saúde Criança’s name and message throughout Brazil.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Video and written testimonials from influential people from business, politics, and social development (Mohammed Yunus, etc)

Task 2

Advertising campaign run pro-bono through DM9 for TV, magazines, internet, and other forms of media.

Task 3

A road show presentation to various companies all over Brazil to fundraise for the growth of Saúde Criança.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

The establishment of two additional franchises, one in São Paulo and one in Colombia.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Support to São Paolo and Colombia franchise teams by initiating contact with local hospitals, potential board members, sponsors.

Task 2

Broaden fundraising goals of all franchises. Every R$4000,00 raised by each franchise will be matched by the main headquarters.

Task 3

Have all heads of Saúde Criança franchises participate in all capacity-building courses offered at Saúde Criança's main HQ.

Tell us about your partnerships

Beyond its partnerships with regional governments, Saúde Criança receives specific assistance through partnerships with various businesses, such as: McKinsey & Company (logistics), Skoll Foundation (growth), Ursula Zindel Hilti Foundation (finances, growth), Unimed (medical supplies), Instituto Kinder do Brasil (academic scholarships), L’Oreal (technical support, professional training), Queiroz Galvão (house refurbishing program), Johnson & Johnson (educational lectures, transport), Praxair Foundation (growth), DM9 (advertising), and the Renner Institute (culinary courses).

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your innovation? If so, where and why?

Saúde Criança aims to establish a franchise chapter in São Paolo and Colombia. Generally, the organization is motivated to extend its reach to any low-income areas with families in need, in partnership with local hospitals, but these sites are targeted in particular because partners who are already intimately familiar with Saúde Criança and who are strong, capable supporters are present at these locations. With these contacts, the difficult step of gaining a foothold in a new community has already passed and the founding of a new franchise can proceed much more easily and smoothly.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

Saúde Criança fosters an open environment of collaboration and mutual respect with integral participation from highly-motivated volunteers. Indeed, the Family Action Plan was not solely the brainchild of Vera Cordeiro, but rather a collaborative effort from Saúde Criança’s earliest team members who listened and responded to the families they assisted. Saúde Criança also values cross-sector partnerships which allow it to remain highly flexible and able to maximize the quality of support offered to families. Finally, in line with its integral perspective of health, the organization maintains a centralized workflow that allows for easy communication between different departments and for families to efficiently receive the assistance they require in one location.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list