19 September 2017

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

Attended by some 150 leaders from business, government, civil society and partners, the annual Every Woman Every Child Private Sector-Innovation high-level event, held in the EWEC HUB at the UN Headquarters in New York, was opened by Dr Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges and chair of the EWEC Innovation Marketplace, who remarked that this was now the seventh private-sector innovation event at UNGA since EWEC’s launch in 2010.  The full participation and exciting line up demonstrates the continued commitment of business partners to the EWEC platform and the dynamic innovation landscape.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, provided the keynote address, noting that throughout his career he has been a believer in the possibilities of innovation to solve health problems. “At the current rate of progress,” he said, “it will take 160 years before a woman in Africa has the same chances of carrying a child to safe childbirth as a woman in developed countries.” He underlined the role of innovation in rapidly advancing progress and the importance of building an innovation infrastructure for health and wellbeing. “This is the role of the EWEC Innovation Marketplace,” he highlighted.

 

New private sector commitments

The first part of the event, moderated by Ms Nana Kuo, Every Woman Every Child Senior Manager in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, featured new commitment announcements by private sector companies. Ms. Kuo noted that business commitments represent the second largest group of commitments after government, approximately 25 per cent of the total. She expressed appreciation to all existing commitment makers for their ongoing support to women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health, and welcomed the following new commitments:

 

Sumitomo Chemical and Nothing But Nets announced the third year of their partnership and commitment aimed at providing 640 000 long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets to prevent malaria in vulnerable populations in humanitarian and fragile situations, particularly women and children. They further announced the expansion of their commitment beyond Africa to Latin America.

 Medentech announced a new commitment to ensure 15 billion liters of clean, purified water globally by 2020 through their Aquatabs products, including the implementation of pilot programs to extend clean water through Aquatabs flo to maternal and neo-natal health clinics in Bangladesh and to rural communities in Tanzania.

Dekai Partners announced a commitment to work with One Family People in Sierra Leone to empower 1000 women through income-generation, export-oriented enterprise, and through provision of education, nutrition and health services.

United4Oxygen announced the expansion of their coalition to twenty partners including five private sector partners who commit to extending medical oxygen and pulse oximetry screening to patients in Ethiopia, as well as their intention to expand to a new country over the following year.

Amorepacific Group announced a new commitment to reduce the mortality rate of female cancer for women in several Asian countries and to empower women and encourage their independence through entrepreneurship and credit programs.

Touch Foundation announced the national expansion of their pilot program in Tanzania over the next 3 years which will enable over 11 000 pregnant women or newborns experiencing emergency situations to access emergency taxi services and thus reduce maternal and neo-natal mortality by 27%.

Philips announced the expansion of their multi-faceted commitment to EWEC, with the ambition of reaching 300 million in under-served countries by 2025 through primary health care, digital transformation of health care and large-scale healthcare systems strengthening.

BASF announced a commitment to offer their expertise in food fortification by working with partners and governments in over 51 high prevalence countries and reaching over 60 million people including through the “Affordable Nutritious Foods for Women” program.

 

Dr Naveen Rao, Lead, Merck for Mothers rounded up the private sector session by providing the audience with an update on progress made by the Global Financing Facility in support of Every Woman Every Child since its launch in 2015. Dr Rao underlined GFF role in strengthening country-led investment in RMNCAH, and called on private sector partners to join and support its efforts.

 

Innovator dialogue

The next session focused on innovations, starting with the awarding of the ViiV Healthcare Positive Action Challenge Prize, presented in association with EWEC and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). Dr Stephen Lee of EGPAF presented the prize of USD 65 000 each to two joint winners, Mr Shaun Heath-Thilberg of Gateway Health Institute and Ms Anna Kydd of the SHM Foundation, who submitted winning proposals demonstrating how to leverage technology to increase ART adherence for women living with HIV-AIDS whilst breastfeeding.

Dr Peter Singer then facilitated a conversation with a group of innovators who presented a variety of innovations curated by the Innovation Marketplace and which are positioned to transition to scale and achieve wide impact. These included:

 

InPress Technologies by Ms Anne Morrissey, who presented a low-cost innovation to treat post-partum hemorrhage in low resource settings;

Augmented Infant Resuscitator by Dr Santorino Data & Dr Kristian Olson, an add-on device that gives simple, intuitive feedback on resuscitation quality that helps birth attendants to effectively ventilate newborn babies and receive training and validation while doing so;

Bilimetrix Bilistick System by Dr Carlos Coda Zabetta, a low-cost point of care diagnostic reader for neo-natal hyperbilirubinemia (newborn jaundice) consisting of a low-cost battery re-chargeable reader, test strips and blood transfer pipettes;

bili-hut by Dr Donna Brezinski of Little Sparrows Technologies. Bili-hut is an ultraportable, high-intensity neonatal phototherapy device for jaundice treatment, capable of prolonged operation from a battery;

D-Tree International Safer Deliveries by Dr Marc Mitchell is an integrated phone-based application that links pregnant women and their families to existing community resources and health facilities so that all women have the education, support and resources to deliver in a health facility;

NutMox by Dr Sangwei Lu & Dr Michael Chansler, an innovative combination of amoxicillin in a heat-stable, tasty peanut-butter formulation that treats child pneumonia and malnutrition simultaneously.

Mr Sidd Goyal presented Nivi, the first digital, interactive contraceptive screening and referral app for contraceptive services in East Africa that can be used for free by anyone with a mobile-phone and is currently being supported by Merck for Mothers and other partners.

 

Dr Singer encouraged participants to interact with the innovators, take up their innovations and help them to scale. Several participants came forward to express their interest in working with the innovators and exploring how to bring their innovations to their own countries and contexts, with the aim of collectively transforming health outcomes for women, children and adolescents.