Healthy Learners Wins Fred Morgan Kirby Prize for Scaling Social Impact

While each of the 14 finalists for the Fred Morgan Kirby Prize for Scaling Social Impact demonstrated innovative scaling strategies, resilience amid challenges, and powerful evidence of impact, one rose to the top of a competitive inaugural applicant pool.  The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business is pleased to announce Healthy Learners as the winner of the 2020-2021 F. M. Kirby Impact Prize.

Based in Zambia, Healthy Learners works to improve the health of school-based children through partnering with government agencies to train teachers as community health workers. For children living in low and middle-income countries, common childhood illnesses such as worm infestation, febrile illness, and respiratory infections result in poor health and keep them out of school for weeks at a time. An external evaluation of Healthy Learners’ work shows that training and supporting teachers as health workers leads to significant improvements in child healthcare utilization and education, including:

  • 38% reduction in morbidity
  • 48% increase in vitamin A and deworming coverage (increased from 41% to 84%, whereas it remained at 37% in control)
  • 52% reduction in odds of stunting
  • 22% increase in student knowledge of health topics

Additionally, Healthy Learners’ partner schools report reduced student absenteeism as well as improvement in teachers’ management skills and job satisfaction.

While Healthy Learners has expanded their model to all public primary schools in Lusaka, Zambia serving 250,000 children at an ongoing annual cost of only $2.50 per child, their vision is full integration of their school-based community health model into the day-to-day operations of the education system throughout Zambia, and then becoming a model for governments throughout the region and beyond.

“Healthy Learners is building a brighter future where schools can support the overall health of children,” said Healthy Learners’ Director of Programmatic Expansion and Co-Founder Ignicious Bulongo.  “Winning the F. M. Kirby Impact Prize will help us reach 600,000 children over the next three years through replicating our model in new provinces, deepening our partnerships with the Zambian Ministries of Health and Education, and building the team capacity and systems necessary to execute at our next level of scale.”

The F. M. Kirby Prize Selection Committee was particularly impressed with Healthy Learners’ effective partnership with government – a partnership that has been strengthened during the COVID19 pandemic as the Zambian government looked to Healthy Learners to help safely re-open and manage schools and is urging Healthy Learners to accelerate their expansion plans.

Additionally, the Committee was impressed by the strength of Healthy Learner’s leadership particularly the levels of local leadership in both organizational management and program implementation. 71% of Healthy Learners’ senior management team and 95% of the enterprise’s non-leadership full-time workers are Zambian. “At CASE, we know that those most proximate to an issue often have the most innovative insights into effective levers for sustainable change,” said CASE Executive Director Erin Worsham. “Local leadership and knowledge is key to solving our most entrenched global problems.”

Named after early entrepreneur Fred Morgan Kirby and supported by the F.M. Kirby Foundation, the F. M. Kirby Impact Prize awards $100,000 to one impact enterprise each year that is working to scale its impact on social and/or environmental problems around the world.  Applications for the 2021-2022 prize will open in fall 2021.  Subscribe to the CASE newsletter to be the first to learn more about the 2021-2022 prize.