The late Tip O’Neill, former speaker of the U.S. House, coined the phrase “all politics is local,” by which he meant that politicians become successful by addressing the everyday concerns of the voters who elected them to office. In the same way, many of the “global” health care challenges we face can best be addressed by developing affordable, accessible and cost-effective solutions that satisfy patients’ needs. Simple solutions can offer dramatic results, and local implementation means solutions are in tune with cultural preferences and economic realities. In other words, when it comes to improving people’s lives, all health care is local.

Did you know that indoor air pollution associated with unventilated cooking is one of the top four contributors to illness worldwide? In fact, indoor smoke inhalation leads to 1.6 million deaths per year, [WHO 2009].

As a result of this staggering statistic, Philips’ Philanthropy by Design created the original low-smoke Chulha stove. This project, which has been recognized by The World Health Organization’s as an Innovative Health Technologies for Low-Resource Settings, was developed to provide a very simple solution to a devastating problem in specific areas of the world.

In Guatemala, 62% of the population cooks with unventilated open stoves in their homes. The resulting respiratory diseases are the number one cause of death among Guatemalan children.

Since 2011, Philips Healthcare has partnered with the organization, People for Guatemala to purchase and install Chapina stoves in Guatemalan farming communities. As a result, over 1,800 people will realize the benefits of the vented Chapina stove, which removes 99 percent of toxic smoke from the kitchen — reducing respiratory illnesses six fold. The stoves also use renewable biofuels, reducing consumption of wood and having less impact on the environment.

Each family purchases the concrete blocks and helps pay for delivery of the stoves — costing approximately $25 per family. And, it is amazing to hear of communities that are banding together to raise the funds to bring these stoves into their homes — sometimes traveling more than 2 hours to hand deliver the request on behalf of their family, neighbors and friends.

As Lois Werner, president of People for Guatemala, reports, “We’re seeing changes in our communities — one stove at a time.”

Using Philanthropy by Design’s simple idea in combination with local implementation, the Chapina Stoves Project has created another sustainable and scalable model for improving people’s lives.

It’s projects like this that show us all health care is local.

*Source: World Health Organization 2009

Originally published at on December 11, 2013.