Every year, around 300,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth and 6 million children die before their fifth birthday — nearly all in developing countries.
Lifesaving innovations exist but too few reach the women and children who need them. How do we get the game-changers from the pipelines to the front lines to improve the most lives?
To answer this question, we co-hosted “Scaling Innovations to Save the Lives of Mothers and Babies,” at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, where HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (pictured above) gave opening remarks. Afterward, we cornered a few guests for their thoughts. Here’s what they had to say.
Olafur Eliasson — Danish-Icelandic artist
You turn bold ideas into large-scale sculptures and installations, but how do we move health innovations from idea to impact?
Between thinking and doing there’s actually a lot more steps than we somehow realize. And a great idea doesn’t necessarily immediately mean that it’s impactful. It’s important to understand all these small steps. How do you then test it, make a sketch, make a pilot, undergo different trials? And then the financing — is it a business model, or an NGO with private funding or is it publicly funded? I thought that was interesting to understand all these steps in between having the idea and then actually impacting.
Amie Batson, Chief Strategy Officer, PATH
Does an innovation have to be a technology?
At PATH, we’re devoted to smart innovations that are going to help us achieve the big goals that we have for women, girls and children. It’s not just about the new widget; often it’s about innovations that improve access so women can get a drug or get a vaccine that they that they couldn’t otherwise get. It’s about improving affordability so that countries can actually afford that innovation. And sometimes it’s even just changing the design so that an innovation or great scientific breakthrough can actually have the right materials, right robustness, work without electricity, whatever it might be to make sure that it can really be used.
Renuka Gadde, Vice President, Global Health at BD
Can a company like BD that produces innovations — such as the BD Odon Device for assisting newborn deliveries during troublesome labor — do it alone?
If you look at the world of global health, there’s enough evidence that complex problems can only be solved through a collaborative approach. If you take the world of immunization, arguably the biggest example for success in public health, governments came together, funding was established by Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), industry came together responding with vaccines and syringes. Multiple actors solving the problem. You look at the world of HIV, it’s the same thing. So with maternal and newborn health, it’s all the more important to leverage the lessons of the collaborative partnership and bring together these actors to solve the problems. Now is the time. There is a stream of innovations like never before. So now we just have to make it happen because the time is ripe.
Zoe Kroessler, Global Health Corps Fellow in Uganda
One speaker today described a Concern Worldwide innovation called Maker Movement, in which Kenyans design medical equipment for the country’s maternity wards. Have you seen a need for a new approach?
In these hard to reach areas, one of the biggest issues is the technology that they get. A whole bunch of our health centers have donated equipment from international donors. They get this amazing equipment and they use it for a couple years and then it breaks. They don’t have any capacity or money to repair the machine. Nobody really thinks about that next step. Everyone prioritizes just giving them the equipment instead of thinking of the long-term sustainable solution. That’s one thing we’re really trying to figure out a solution for. Because whenever we go to a health center, the first thing they say is, well we’re really happy to get this equipment but what happens when it breaks because it’s going to break. It happens with x-ray machines, it happens with ultrasounds but the worst is the incubators for premature babies. There are just countless stories about hearing about premature babies and we didn’t have the resources to help.
Concern Worldwide hosted “Scaling Innovations” with Every Woman Every Child, Philips, Grand Challenges Canada, MSD for Mothers, Maternity Foundation and PATH.