Raj Panjabi

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Raj Panjabi
Born Rajesh Ramesh Panjabi
(1981-02-03) February 3, 1981 (age 37)
Monrovia, Liberia
Occupation Physician, Social Entrepreneur, Teacher
Known for Co-Founder of Last Mile Health
Website www.lastmilehealth.org

Raj Panjabi (born February 3, 1981) is a Liberian-Indian American physician, social entrepreneur and scholar. He is the co-founder and CEO of Last Mile Health. Panjabi also serves as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Division of Global Health Equity at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

For his work on building rural and community health systems, Panjabi was named as one of the TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2016,[1] received the 2017 TED Prize,[2][3][4] and was listed as one of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune in 2015[5] and in 2017.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

The son of Indian immigrants who had migrated to West Africa, Panjabi was born and raised in Monrovia, Liberia. After civil war broke out in Liberia in 1989, Panjabi, at age nine, and his family fled on a rescue cargo plane to Sierra Leone and eventually resettled, initially with a host family, in the United States in High Point, North Carolina.

Panjabi graduated with bachelor and medical degrees from the University of North Carolina School at Chapel Hill and received a Masters of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He was a Clinical Fellow at Harvard Medical School, and trained in internal medicine and primary care at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Panjabi returned to Liberia in 2005, as a medical student.


Last Mile Health[edit]

Panjabi is best known as the co-founder and CEO of Last Mile Health, a non-profit organisation working to save lives in the world's most remote communities. He co-founded this organisation in 2007 with a small team of Liberian civil war survivors and American health workers and $6,000 he had received as a wedding gift.

Last Mile Health partners with governments to design, scale, and advocate for national networks of community health workers (CHWs). These CHWs are people with a middle or high school level education who are employed in their own villages and given training and medicines enabling them to bring health care to the doorsteps of their neighbors. CHWs are paired with clinically-trained supervisors, including nurses and physician assistants, who provide CHWs with one-on-one mentorship to improve the quality of care they provide while strengthening the clinics to which CHWs refer patients. Following the 2014-16 West Africa Ebola epidemic, Last Mile Health has partnered with the Government of Liberia and other organizations to design a National Community Health Assistant Program, which aims to train, equip, and pay over 4000 CHWs, as well as 400 nurses, physician assistants, and midwives to supervise them. This program is intended to extend primary health services to over 1 million people in Liberia's most remote communities.[7]

Community Health Academy[edit]

In 2017, Panjabi and Last Mile Health received the $1 million TED Prize to launch the Community Health Academy.[8] Panjabi, Last Mile Health and a group of health care, education and technology partners from business, philanthropy and government are working to launch the Community Health Academy, which aims to reinvent the education of community health workers and leaders for the digital age.[9]


Panjabi has authored or co-authored over 50 publications.[10] His and Last Mile Health's work on CHWs and rural health care delivery has been published in The Lancet,[11] the Journal of the American Medical Association,[12] PLoS Medicine,[13] the Bulletin of the World Health Organization,[14] and the Journal of Global Health.[15]

In 2017, a study on Last Mile Health's work with the Liberian health ministry, "Implementation research on community health workers' provision of maternal and child health services in rural Liberia", was published in a special theme issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization focused on universal health coverage and vulnerable populations.[16] The authors of the study included Panjabi as well as researchers from the Liberian health ministry, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, and Harvard University. The study indicated that, in one of Liberia's most remote districts, professionalized CHWs coached by nurses significantly improved access to care from qualified providers for children suffering from diarrhea, malaria, and acute respiratory infection – increasing by 60.1, 30.6 and 51.2 percentage points, respectively. Furthermore, CHWs significantly increased the rates of pregnant women undergoing clinic-based births with a skilled provider to 84.0 percent. In addition, despite the Ebola virus disease outbreak, which caused substantial declines in health-care utilization in other regions of the country, the study showed increases in health-care use from formal providers for fever, acute respiratory infection, and diarrhea among children and facility-based delivery among pregnant women. The study noted:

practices from this programme are being scaled up to over 240 remote communities in adjacent Rivercess County. Furthermore, several of the programme's features, such as contracts and cash payments, ensuring a CHW-to-population ratio of 1:350, targeting of services to remote communities and field-based supervision, have helped to inform the design of Liberia's National Community Health Assistant Program.[16]

An editorial on barriers to universal health coverage co-authored by Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, cited the 2017 study about Last Mile Health's work in Liberia. This editorial stated: "Enhanced recruitment, training, supervision, and compensation of community health workers rapidly improved coverage with maternal and child health services in rural areas of Liberia."[17]

Panjabi was a co-author of the report Strengthening Primary Health Care through Community Health Workers: Investment Case and Financing Recommendations. The report found that extending the reach of the primary health care system by investing in CHW programs can deliver a high economic return—up to 10:1—and calls on government leaders, international financiers, donors, and the global health community broadly to take specific actions to support the financing and scale up of CHW programs across sub-Saharan Africa.[18]


In 2017, Panjabi delivered a TED Talk entitled, "No One Should Die Because They Live Too Far From a Doctor." [8] Panjabi's TED Talk has been viewed over one million times and was selected as a Top 10 TED Talk of 2017, alongside TED Talks from Pope Francis and Elon Musk.[19] Panjabi delivered the commencement address at the graduation of Harvard Medical School in 2015, titled "The Power of Selfless Acts".[20] He delivered testimony at the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy session, "A Progress Report of the West Africa Ebola Epidemic", arguing investments in rural community health workers can help make health systems responsive to Ebola and future epidemics.[21] Panjabi highlighted the role of investing in rural community health workers at the TIME-Fortune Global Forum hosted by Pope Francis in 2016[22]


Panjabi was named one of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune in 2015[5] and 2017,[6] listed as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME in 2016[1] with a tribute from President Bill Clinton, and received the 2017 TED Prize.[2][3][4] Panjabi is a recognized social entrepreneur, receiving an Echoing Green Fellowship in 2011, a Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation Fellowship in 2013, the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year from the World Economic Forum in 2017. In 2015, Panjabi accepted the Clinton Global Citizen award on behalf of Last Mile Health and numerous organizations for "their leadership and collective response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and their continued effort to improve the health and well-being of the affected communities." In 2017, the Government of Liberia recognized Panjabi with one of Liberia's highest civilian honors: Distinction of Knight Commander in the Most Venerable Order of the Pioneers of the Republic of Liberia.


  1. ^ a b Clinton B. Raj Panjabi. TIME. April 21, 2016. http://time.com/4302208/raj-panjabi-2016-time-100/
  2. ^ a b Sifferlin A. Raj Panjabi Wins 2017 TED Prize. TIME. December 1, 2016. http://time.com/4584987/2017-ted-prize-winner-raj-panjabi/
  3. ^ a b http://blog.ted.com/announcing-2017-ted-prize-winner-raj-panjabi/
  4. ^ a b Silver M. A Million Dollar Prize For A Doctor Who Goes The Extra Mile. NPR. December 1, 2016. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/12/01/503994471/a-million-dollar-prize-for-a-doctor-who-goes-the-extra-mile
  5. ^ a b The World's 50 Greatest Leaders. Fortune. March 26, 2015. http://fortune.com/worlds-greatest-leaders/2015/raj-panjabi-34/
  6. ^ a b The World's 50 Greatest Leaders. Fortune. March 23, 2017. http://fortune.com/worlds-greatest-leaders/raj-panjabi-28/
  7. ^ https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2016/08/12/how-liberia-is-working-to-deliver-healthcare-to-more-than-a-quarter-of-its-population/#7ffc71543130
  8. ^ a b https://www.ted.com/talks/raj_panjabi_no_one_should_die_because_they_live_too_far_from_a_doctor
  9. ^ Community Health Academy http://www.communityhealthacademy.org
  10. ^ Rajesh Ramesh Panjabi, M.D. Harvard Catalyst Profile https://connects.catalyst.harvard.edu/Profiles/display/Person/31205
  11. ^ Westerhaus M, Panjabi R, Mukherjee J. (2008). "Violence and the Role of Illness Narratives". The Lancet 2008. 372; 699-701.
  12. ^ Johnson K., Asher J., Rosborough S., Raja A., Panjabi R., Beadling C., Lawry L. (2008). "Association of combatant status and sexual violence with health and mental health outcomes in postconflict Liberia". Journal of the American Medical Association, 300(6), 676-690.
  13. ^ Ly EJ, Sathananthan V, Griffiths T, Kanjee Z, Kenny A, Gordon N. (2016) "Facility-Based Delivery during the Ebola Virus Disease Epidemic in Rural Liberia: Analysis from a Cross-Sectional, Population-Based Household Survey". PLoS Medicine. 13(8): e1002096.
  14. ^ Perry HB, Dhillon RS, Liu A, Chitnis K, Panjabi R, Palazuelos D, Koffi AK, Kandeh JN, Camara M, Camara R, Nyenswah T. "Community health worker programmes after the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak". Bull World Health Organ. 2016 Jul 1; 94(7):551-3.
  15. ^ Kenny A, Basu G, Ballard M, Griffiths T, Kentoffio K, Niyonzima JB, Sechler GA, Selinsky S, Panjabi R, Siedner M, Kraemer J. "Remoteness and maternal and child health utilization in rural Liberia: A population-based survey". Journal of Global Health. 2015; 5:2.
  16. ^ a b Luckow PW, Kenny A, White E, Ballard M, Dorr L, Erlandson K, et al. "Implementation research on community health workers' provision of maternal and child health services in rural Liberia". Bull World Health Organ. 2017 Feb 1;95(2):113–20. http://dx.doi/org/10.2471/BLT.16.175513
  17. ^ Sakolsatayadorn, Piyasakol; Chan, Margaret (2017). "Breaking down the barriers to universal health coverage". Bull World Health Organ. 95. doi:10.2471/BLT.17.190991. PMC 5327950Freely accessible. 
  18. ^ Dahn, B., Woldemariam, A.T., Perry, H., Maeda, A., von Glahn, D., Panjabi, R., Merchant, N., Vosburg, K., Palazuelos, D., Lu, C. and Simon, J., 2015. Strengthening primary health care through community health workers: Investment case and financing recommendations.
  19. ^ https://www.ted.com/playlists/607/curator_s_picks_top_10_ted_talks_of_2017
  20. ^ Panjabi R (2017). "The Power of Selfless Acts". Huffington Post February 12, 2017.
  21. ^ Panjabi, R. "A Progress Report on the West Africa Ebola Epidemic". Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy; available from: http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/040716_Panjabi_Testimony.pdf
  22. ^ Leaf C. A Meeting. A Vow. A New Hope for Childhood Health. Fortune, December 6, 2016. http://fortune.com/2016/12/06/brainstorm-health-12-06-intro/

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