Ramezani and Shafi traveled to South Africa for two weeks in August 2014 as part of their social entrepreneurship class. This experience gave them the push to participate in the 2015 GW Business Plan Competition
GW Students’ App is a Win for Women’s Health
The Internet is rife with health information and advice, but it’s often difficult to determine what is accurate. Master of Public Health (MPH) in global health policy student Kimia Ramezani found this to be especially true for college-age women. “We found that in a community of our peers, women were confused about issues like birth control and sexually transmitted diseases,” she says. “We also saw a stigma associated with seeking out this information.” This prompted a partnership with GW MPH in maternal and child health student Misbah Shafi and GW Elliott School alumna in global public health Sarah Hillware to create the app SheWins (Simple Health Education – Women’s Information Network System). The students will compete for funding for their app in GW’s 2015 Business Plan Competition, which held its kickoff event on September 4, 2014.
SheWins is a developing mobile app and website that will provide an interactive network of health information for young millennial women. It will offer real-time access to sexual and reproductive health information through a panel of healthcare professionals, and will provide an outlet to discuss these issues anonymously with peers. Data shows that individuals tend to use and respond more to interactive apps like SheWins than their non-interactive counterparts, Ramezani says. “This generally makes them more successful and effective.”
The three women came up with the idea for a women’s health app from personal, as well as academic and professional experiences. Ramezani first got the idea for SheWins from her experiences as a fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a position she has held for the last two years, and a student at Milken Institute SPH. As a fellow at NIH she had the opportunity to participate in and organize health education workshops in low and middle-income countries. It was then that she noticed a global trend that spanned beyond these countries for the need to bring accessible health information to young women. Shafi was inspired by her experiences working in rural health clinics in Lahore, Pakistan where she found that women often sought medical treatment without the ability to self-advocate. Hillware, on the other hand, drew from both her experiences working in mobile clinics in Latin America during mission trips, as well as her own personal experiences running a health education nonprofit in urban cities in the US.
As an MPH in global health student, Ramezani says that her social entrepreneurship class with Professors Amita Vyas and Blaine Parrish played a pivotal role in her decision to move forward with a business plan. Ramezani and Shafi traveled with the class to South Africa for two weeks in August 2014 where students had the opportunity to visit and meet with various organizations and enterprises focused on public health.
“The class helped me understand what sustainable public health programs looks like, how to fundraise, create a robust business plan and pitch my idea,” she says. It was this experience that gave her the push to participate in GW’s annual Business Plan Competition. “My studies in global health helped build the public health foundation and my social entrepreneurship class helped solidify the business venture aspect.”
At the September 4 Business Plan Competition kickoff event, Ramezani participated in a lightning round of presentations where groups were challenged to present two-minute pitches solving an existing problem with only 30 minutes to prepare. Ramezani presented SheWins, which was one of ten top-ranked proposals that were awarded $100 each.
“The atmosphere was really motivating,” Ramezani said of the kickoff event. “We were able to network with like-minded people, hear from inspiring speakers, and receive encouraging and constructive feedback from the judges.”
Ramezani, Shafi and Hillware are now preparing SheWins’ executive summary and business model canvas for the competition’s first major deadline in January 2015. In the long-term the team hopes universities will purchase a license to the app so it can offer sexual and reproductive health information for female students to compliment on-campus resources.