Dr. Aparna Hegde

WGL 2021-Aparna Hegde
Courtesy of ARMMAN
  • Title
    Founder and chairperson
  • Affiliation

During her residency, Hegde, a urogynecologist, witnessed too many horrors delivering babies at a government hospital in Mumbai. Worse, they were preventable: Time after time, she’d seen an infant or its mother, or both, die in childbirth, tragedies that could have been avoided with basic prenatal care or more timely dispatching of hospital resources. That’s what led her in 2008 to found Armman, an organization focused on bettering outcomes through the use of low-cost technology—like targeting pregnant women and new mothers with information through their cellphones.

Hegde met plenty of skeptics—it took five years to get external funding—but today, her nonprofit, which partners with the Indian government and dozens of NGOs in 17 states across the country, represents one of the largest mobile health programs in the world and a lifeline for women in India: Armman has reached more than 24 million of them and trained more than 170,000 local health workers. The model has proved powerful beyond prenatal care, too: When COVID struck, Armman’s network and virtual training platform made it a vital tool in educating women and health workers about the virus and vaccine. The organization also made a quick pivot and launched a virtual clinic to provide antenatal and pediatric care as hospitals converted to COVID centers.