Andrea Coleman

Ashoka Fellow
Northampton, United Kingdom
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Andrea Coleman was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Andrea Coleman founded Riders for Health in 1989 along with Barry Coleman, and American motorcycle racer Randy Mamola, to transform the delivery of rural healthcare across the developing world and dramatically increase health services’ ability to access the most remote patients. Having spent her life riding, racing and surrounded by motorcycles, Andrea knew that the were the perfect to provide reliable rural travel even in the absence of paved roads. However health systems still rely on travel by foot, some bicycles or in vehicles unsuited for the terrain. Andrea and Barry saw that weak operational infrastructure was a key limiting factor on any efforts and resources aimed at improving rural health. They therefore developed an innovative model to mobilize health workers, and put appropriate transportation and vehicle maintenance systems in place across entire regions. By focusing on this simple but ignored link, Andrea is changing how the healthcare system operates by inputting a crucial lever: reliability. In turn, more reliable public health provision allows local communities to re-gain their trust in government services and more fully take advantage of modern medical care.

Rather than expect sick patients to travel hours or days to reach centralized hospitals and clinics, Andrea and Barry’s model revolves around health providers taking full responsibility to deliver healthcare to where people are. In partnership with existing health providers and government ministries, Riders therefore manages motorcycles, ambulances, and the vehicles used in the delivery of health and lab samples. Riders for Health has built networks of locally-run rural maintenance workshops through a “hub and spokes” model, which in turn creates a crucial supply chain of spare parts, trained technicians and tools into rural areas, benefitting the transport and commerce sectors as a whole. Finally, Riders trains existing health workers on safe motorcycle driving and how to do daily, preventative maintenance. In this way, Riders for Health operates on a “zero-breakdown premise”, ensuring that the chain in health care delivery is never broken by failing vehicles. Once this transportation bottleneck is addressed, the effectiveness of all existing resources are maximized and improved– be they hospitals, laboratories, health workers, or on-the-ground delivery of medicine following telemedicine consultations.

Riders for Health is enabling health workers to serve up to six times more rural inhabitants than before, currently reaching 14 million people in seven countries: The Gambia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Lesotho, and Malawi. Andrea’s practice has affected policy, and been replicated as far as Indonesia. At the broadest level, Andrea’s work is demonstrating the power of transport for development. By working in partnership with local governments and ensuring they contribute to costs, Riders for Health is combatting donor dependency, demonstrating that a sustainable path for development is possible based on public-private partnerships, bringing transportation up the government agenda, and holding governments responsible for the health of every citizen in every geography.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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