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Unveiling Luna: Illuminating Women's Health with Empathy and Innovation

By Henry Duah

Step into the radiant world of Luna, where innovation intertwines seamlessly with compassion, illuminating the path to holistic well-being for women across Africa. In this exclusive interview, we unpack Luna’s inception and evolution, guided by the visionary insights of its co-founder, Chibudu Nyiro.

Luna operates in the health sector, weaving together e-commerce, telehealth services, and a nurturing community to redefine women’s healthcare experiences. They focus on creating a safe space for women, countering the judgment and stigma often associated with women’s healthcare. Through LUNA’s online community, women can discuss various health topics anonymously, fostering inclusivity and transparency. LUNA’s emphasis on building a women’s community through chatrooms covering various topics managed by experts provides a supportive environment. As we embark on this enlightening journey, we uncover the dreams, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped Luna into where it is today.

The founders of Luna had experienced the challenges that led to its formation, indicating how passionate they are about solving the accessibility challenge of well-being services for women. We had a chat with Luna’s co-founder, Chibudu Nyiro, to learn more.

Can you share more about the experiences that inspired the mission of changing how women access services and products through LUNA in Africa?

We met 1000 women during our initial research when brainstorming Luna. We grouped them into groups of 10 individuals for focus group discussions. We did a lot of focus group discussions, which were both virtual and in-person focus group discussions. The focus group discussions were carried out in Kigali, Rwanda and in Nairobi, Kenya. Also, we had some women that we met in the diaspora share their experiences. So 1000 women in addition to our visits to health facilities informed the design and development of Luna.

Can you share any notable success stories or feedback from users that highlight the positive impact of LUNA’s services?

LUNA has witnessed remarkable success stories that underscore the positive impact of our services. Initially starting with small community events attended by just two individuals, we have now seen attendance soar to over 300 participants. This growth is a testament to our ability to provide a space where individuals feel heard, and safe, and have their concerns addressed. 

Furthermore, our recent mental health campaign launched in April has garnered significant feedback. We’ve been able to provide crucial assistance to numerous women who lacked access to therapy or mental health services. In collaboration with institutions supporting young girls who have experienced trauma, such as molestation or rape, LUNA has stepped in to fill the gap in mental health support. These testimonials not only validate our mission but also drive us forward in our commitment to serving the community.

How are the community engagements moderated and monitored on LUNA? 

At LUNA, community engagements are carefully moderated and monitored by dedicated experts who ensure the conversations remain informative and constructive. These experts actively respond to questions and address any myths or misconceptions surrounding women’s health. To enhance responsiveness, we’re introducing a chatbot to complement the efforts of our community managers. This chatbot will assist in providing credible information promptly, ensuring that users receive timely support and guidance on the platform.

How does LUNA ensure a seamless and secure experience for users during phone and video consultations?

LUNA prioritises a seamless and secure experience for users during phone and video consultations by allowing them to book appointments with doctors or specialists on various health issues. While there’s a limited number of specialists currently available on the platform, efforts are being made to automate processes to meet growing demand. However, the complexities of healthcare diagnosis, such as endometriosis, require extensive expertise and data, making reliance on AI challenging at this stage. LUNA aims to provide safe and trustworthy services, understanding that some health issues may not be easily diagnosed even by experienced doctors. While technological advancements are valued, the focus remains on ensuring quality care and addressing women’s healthcare needs effectively.

How does LUNA ensure the security and privacy of its users while providing a platform for them to interact with verified professionals?

LUNA prioritises the security and privacy of its users through several measures. We are actively pursuing data protection certifications from government authorities to ensure compliance with regulatory standards. Our backend infrastructure employs robust encryption, safeguarding all user data stored in the database. Even our IT personnel cannot access this encrypted data. Additionally, users have the option to control the visibility of their identifying information, such as names, telephone numbers, and pictures, emphasising our commitment to anonymity and secrecy. Given the sensitive nature of topics discussed on LUNA, we strive to create a safe environment where users can engage without fear of judgment or exposure. All interactions are encrypted and saved on the backend, further enhancing user privacy protection.

Have there been any key milestones in achieving Luna’s Mission?

In measuring the impact of LUNA on women’s lives, especially in addressing issues like stigma and discrimination in healthcare services, we focus on two key pillars: SDGs 3 (Good Health and Well-being) and 5 (Gender Equality). Our goal is to ensure equitable access to healthcare services without discrimination. We gauge our impact by assessing user feedback and satisfaction through rating scores and tracking usage metrics across the region. Currently, our community comprises of approximately 3500 to 4000 members, with around 400 users accessing our services and 50 being repeat customers. Additionally, we’ve collaborated with two prominent organisations to subsidise services for users with financial constraints. These metrics demonstrate our commitment to creating safe spaces and improving access to healthcare for women in the region.

Are there plans to enhance the community platform and will it be a paid platform?

The community platform provided by LUNA operates on a freemium model, ensuring accessibility for all users. Membership grants individuals the ability to engage, communicate, and learn freely. Charges are incurred only when users opt for services and products. LUNA plans to enrich the platform with additional features like a chatbot and health trackers, aiming to enhance user engagement. While the current focus is on building user retention and satisfaction, the long-term vision includes offering a premium version of the community with added benefits, facilitated through subscriptions. However, at present, the platform remains free to access, emphasising inclusivity and accessibility.

How does LUNA envision adapting to emerging trends and needs in women’s health and well-being?

LUNA is committed to addressing the digital divide and ensuring accessibility to its services for all women, regardless of their financial means or access to smartphones. We’re exploring simplified platforms like USSD to reach a wider audience and adapt to emerging trends in women’s health and well-being. Additionally, we’re looking into leveraging artificial intelligence to streamline processes and make our services more accessible via text messaging and other simplified operations. Our ultimate goal is to be inclusive and leave no one behind, especially those earning as little as $1 a day.

In terms of upcoming technological advancements, while we don’t have specific plans on paper, our focus is on collecting and analysing data to enhance our services. We’re collaborating with fertility clinics and endometriosis startups to conduct research aimed at improving diagnosis and consultation processes. We aim to leverage digital tools like surveys and chatbots to gather essential data and address prevalent issues such as endometriosis, where medical solutions are still evolving.

Lessons from entrepreneurship and advice to aspiring health entrepreneurs.

As entrepreneurs in the health sector, we’ve learned some valuable lessons. Selling healthcare services can be challenging, so it’s crucial to create a product that people feel comfortable using and associating with even before they pay. At Luna, we prioritise building a creative brand that women feel affiliated with and love, which helps establish trust and willingness to pay for our services. However, we also recognise the importance of addressing the needs of non-consumers who may lack access or financial resources. While pursuing our big dreams, we’ve had to reconcile them with the realities on the ground, finding a balance between impactful work and sustainable revenue generation. Fundraising can be tough, especially for social impact ventures, so it’s essential to focus on creating tangible value and recurring revenue streams. 

My advice to fellow health entrepreneurs is to prioritise building a product that resonates with your target users and addresses a genuine need they’re willing to pay for. Ultimately, success lies in delivering value that customers truly appreciate and are willing to invest in.

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