25 May 2017

Innovating for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health

24 May 2017 | Geneva, Switzerland

On May 24, alongside the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) convened a high level dinner conversation entitled Innovating for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. Co-hosted by the Canadian and Nigerian governments, Norad, Grand Challenges Canada, the United Nations Foundation and the Global Financing Facility in support of EWEC, the event offered an opportunity to highlight gains that can be made in health outcomes by smart sourcing and application of innovations. The discussion, “not an event or panel but rather a platform for action” as noted by Dr. Peter Singer, chair of the EWEC Innovation Marketplace and moderator for the evening, featured brief presentations by an impressive group of innovators, with Ministers and business representatives encouraged to “buy” and support the roll out of their innovations.

“The Innovation Marketplace has gone from concept to reality,” noted Mr. Haitham El-Noush on behalf of Norad. Indeed, since its launch in September 2015 as an integral component of the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, the EWEC Innovation Marketplace—supported by the Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, NORAD, UBS Optimus and USAID—has worked hard to source and curate the most promising innovations from across the pipeline of its partner organisations. Their collective goal is to broker investments in at least 20 of these innovations by the year 2020, and enable at least 10 of them to wide scale by 2030.

During the event, five of these newly-curated innovations were featured, namely: the Augmented Infant Resuscitator, an affordable device aimed at saving the lives of newborns, presented by Dr. Data Santorino and Dr. Kris Olson. Besides improving newborn resuscitation, the device is unique in that it also aids in the training and skills monitoring of health workers through its red and green light indicators that alert the user to the level of success of the execution. Mr. Jim Stunkel of Assist International and Dr. Steve Adudans of Hewa Tele (“plentiful air” in Swahili) explained how they are working to make oxygen affordable, accessible and safe in order to prevent deaths, particularly of newborns, across East Africa. Dr. Marya Lieberman presented her “lab on paper” device, GotFakes/Veripad, which reliably  detects low-quality and fake medications, while Dr. Thomas Burke shared the Every Second Matters – Uterine Balloon Tamponade, a best-evidence maternal hemorrhage package, priced at under $5 for the central device, and which has shown successful results in diverse markets.

Government ministers and officials responded extremely positively to these innovations, noting that “they will make a huge difference” and that “current levels of maternal and child mortality are unacceptable.” Minister Jane Aceng of Uganda highlighted that she wants to explore how to factor the Uterine Balloon Tamponade and the Augmented Infant Resuscitation into Uganda’s Global Financing Facility in support of Every Woman Every Child investment case.

Participants from Kenya also noted that many of these innovations were sourced from or being tested in the country due to the positive national enabling environment for innovation, and to the fact that the Government aims to follow up to see how to scale up innovations as part of their health plans.

Also during the event, Nigerian Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, announced the winners of the recent Nigerian Service Delivery Challenge, an innovation challenge co-hosted with the Global Financing Facility in support of EWEC and private sector partners in the country. Mr. Okey Okuzu presented the CliniPAK point-of-care data capture and decision-making tool that facilitates sharing of patient health information and pandemic surveillance in real time using mobile networks. Mr. Kayode Ajayi shared how Riders for Health has created a chain of mobility to ensure that over 190,000 pregnant women in rural and remote areas in Nigeria can safely obtain obstetric care and maternal services within the shortest possible time through a managed transportation service. Ms. Njide Nidili, country director for PharmAccess in Nigeria, explained how her organization, working in partnership with other national actors, is aiming to transform access to health care through targeted supply and demand-side interventions that can end the vicious cycle of high out-of-pocket expenses and low and poor access to RMNCAH services for the majority of Nigerians.

Dr. Mariam Claeson, Director of the Global Financing Facility in support of EWEC, lauded the Nigeria Innovation Challenge as being a domestic-driven initiative spearheaded at the highest level in the country to meaningfully engage innovators in health delivery. Ms. Nana Kuo, Senior Manager for the Every Woman Every Child team in the office of the UN Secretary-General, noted that all partners must come together to ensure success in scaling up the solutions needed for women’s and children’s health.

Ms. Florence Gaudry-Perkins, Senior Advisor for Digital Health at the Novartis Foundation, highlighted the recently released report of the Broadband Commission Working Group on Digital Health, which was co-chaired by Nokia and the Novartis Foundation. The report is a call to action so that governments build a “highway” that can help digital health solutions to scale—one of the key obstacles being inter-operability of mobile services. Without government intervention, Ms. Gaudry-Perking emphasized, digital innovations inevitably hit a wall and are unable to have a broad impact on the national or regional levels.

Participants at the event also noted the importance of introducing “fresh blood” into governments by recruiting individuals who are passionate about driving innovation and the need for all partners to work alongside governments so as to meet domestic needs and priorities. Companies such as GSK and GE asserted their interest in supporting the disruptive, affordable innovations presented. Dr. Peter Singer underlined that, along the value chain of innovation, companies can serve as scaling platforms, financiers as investors, and domestic governments—the most important link—can assert their leadership by enabling and supporting innovative solutions for health and wellbeing.