La Jolla native launches ambulance service in Ghana to help patients in remote villages

Moving Health ambulances designed by native La Jollan Emily Young
The Moving Health ambulances designed by native La Jollan Emily Young are designed to provide emergency services to remote villages in Africa.
(Provided by Emily Young)

Following up a two-year pilot program, Emily Young’s goal is to release 200 three-wheeled ambulances in the next two or three years to serve a half-million people.


As co-founder and chief executive of the nonprofit Moving Health, La Jolla native Emily Young is doing her part to help provide people in Africa safe access and transport to emergency medical care.

After two years of pilot testing and data collection, Moving Health released a final prototype in March for three-wheeled ambulances that can move patients from remote villages to hospitals.

“We’re trying to fill the gap for areas that don’t have access to ambulance services,” Young said.

The idea for Moving Health started when Young was studying mechanical engineering and product design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology almost 10 years ago. She took a class that paired engineering students with organizations abroad so the students could be design consultants. After being paired with a Tanzania-based non-governmental organization, she learned of the devastating rate of deaths due to preventable pregnancy complications across Africa and the world.

Young said “830 women die every day due to [such] complications [worldwide]. That number does not need to be so high with modern medicine being what it is. We wanted to improve hospital access for pregnant women and anyone needing medical care, because if you can get someone to a hospital with the right care, they are less likely to die.”

Young was particularly moved by a case in a village in Ghana 37 miles from the nearest hospital. An expectant mother was planning to deliver her baby with a birth attendant in the community, but soon realized it was going to be complicated.

“She called for a motorcycle and drove to the hospital,” Young said. “It was raining and the motorcycle crashed. By the time she walked into the maternity ward, she was covered in mud, in a lot of pain and she didn’t know if her baby was going to make it.”

The mother was tended to and delivered a baby boy who survived.

“The crazy part of that story,” Young added, “is that her case is considered a successful birth because neither one died. That level of trauma is considered a success.”

La Jolla native Emily Young is the chief executive and co-founder of Moving Health.
(Provided by Emily Young)

To ease the process, Young created low-cost ambulances that can be driven by community members. Each has room for the patient, a family member and a medical provider and has a removable stretcher, a birthing kit and a first-aid kit with options for additional equipment if funding allows.

In the pilot stage, Moving Health ambulances took 300 patients for hospital treatment; half were maternity cases.

Young said the next step is to expand with more ambulances and to create partnerships to scale up the work. Each ambulance is made in Ghana, near the villages intended to be served.

“We have a goal to release 200 ambulances in the next two or three years to serve half a million people,” Young said.

“One of the things that has been exciting for me is to have them manufactured locally,” she added. “So many things are imported and it takes away from the local economy. By creating something that can be made locally, you are creating an impact and stimulating the economy. There are some hospitals that can afford to buy them, but a huge part of the population we are trying to serve cannot.”

Because they are assembled by locals, “you can buy 15 of these for the same price as a standard ambulance,” Young said.

Young grew up in Bird Rock and was taught by her parents, current Bird Rock residents Carolyn and Ned Young, the importance of helping others, she said.

“I grew up wanting to do something that felt like it would impact the world in a positive way,” she said. “It’s been really amazing to see this take off.”

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