Big Pitch – 2021 – The Pandemic Edition


For five consecutive years, as the climax to their Introduction to Global Health course, first year students enter “The Big Pitch.” Teams present Global Health proposals showing how they’d effectively utilize a $25 million donation. The idea is modeled on an Emory University School of Public Health concept; students study an assigned country, identify a problem, and make an intervention pitch to alleviate a serious health issue in that country.

Organized by course coordinators, Drs. Anat Rosenthal and Dr. Jonah Mink, students are split into random groups. They study their country, identify an issue, and come up with a solution. They then present the idea to a panel of experienced Global Health physicians, as well as classmates and invited guests.

“This year was especially challenging,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “The entire course was conducted through zoom with students in widely-dispersed time-zones. Many of them have only met on-online to this day. Observing how they coordinated and cooperated was truly inspiring, and their presentations were outstanding.”

This year, seven presentations were made:

  • Ethiopia – preventing trachoma, irreversible blindness caused by recurrent Chlamydia trachomatis bacterial eye infections
  • Peace of Mind – an app to introduce psychiatric telemedicine to rural India
  • Operation Breathing Hearts – a program to tackle cardiovascular disease in Nepal
  • Peru – a program to address high incidences of cervical cancer
  • Mexico – drug abuse – dealing with mental health and addiction
  • Q-Tip – lessening tobacco addiction and associated smoking-related illnesses in the Philippines
  • Coops for Kids – alleviating malnutrition in Sri Lanka – an egg-producing chicken coop for Primary Schools

Judges rated the presentations according to set criteria, ranging from how well the team described the problem and its causes, to how their idea would help, and the limitations they foresee. Systems for measuring outcomes was also a crucial element, as well as a general budget showing how $25M would be spent.

“I was truly impressed to see how the students managed to present their ideas despite their distant geographic locations,” said Dr. Jonah Mink. “It’s never easy to do such a thing, but doing it under pressure during a zoom conference call makes it harder still.”

The chickens have it!

The winning project this year was Coops for Kids from the Sri Lankan team of Donna Chesnova, Jacob Van Buren, Talya Kresch, Pnina Kramer, and Maxwell Schwartz. In second place was the Peru team, and the Philippines team came third.

Coops for Kids proposed placing a chicken coop at each primary school in Sri Lanka and teaching the kids and their teachers how to look after them, and encouraging them to eat their eggs. Research shows, according to the team, that an egg a day can greatly alleviate some of the nourishment problems that children experience in parts of Sri Lanka.