This blog was written by Global Health Council Policy Communications Intern Allison Kline.
How do you get the most health for your dollar? As the world tightens its belt, people and global health organizations have been focusing on how they can maximize outcomes for the lowest possible cost.
Anastasia Moloney, the Bogotá correspondent for Reuters AlertNet was compiling a top 10 list of “big ideas that cost little” with the aim of producing a list of simple, low-cost innovations in the fields of technology, health, education, water and sanitation that can make a big difference in the developing world.
The question was: “If there was one low-cost solution to improve health and or water and sanitation in the developing world that we need to see more of in 2011, what would it be?
We polled the members of our Global Health Communicators Working Group and here are the 12 ideas they offered (with the nominating organization in parenthesis), in no particular order of priority. Do you agree with them? Do you know any others that should be listed here? If so, please post them below.
Water and sanitation can make a huge difference in improving health by preventing water-borne diseases:
1. Increased hand washing with soap: According to the Global Handwashing Day website, handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet can cut deaths from diarrhea by half, and acute respiratory infections by a quarter — the same health benefits as thousands of dollars in immunization, for just US $3.35 (Global Health Council).
2. Point-of-use water filters: Vestergaard-Frandsen’s lifestraw provides an effective, affordable way for populations in remote and rural parts of developing countries to obtain safe drinking water, such as areas affected by guinea worm, where treating water sources or eradicating the parasite itself would be a logistical and financial nightmare.
Vaccines are arguably one of the most effective and cost-effective initiatives in global health. Innovation in vaccine delivery and policy make it easier to vaccinate everyone for less:
3. Increased childhood vaccination: Particularly for preventable diseases such as pneumonia (Hib and pneumococcal), typhoid, rotavirus and rubella (Sabin Vaccine Institute).
4. Meningitis vaccine: The vaccine, developed through the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) in collaboration with the World Health Organization and PATH, will cost only 40 cents per dose, making it affordable for many African governments (Global Health Technologies Coalition).
5. Heat-stable and needle-free vaccine: They are inexpensive to produce, distribute and administer, according to recent research from Tufts University School of Medicine. They do not need to be refrigerated, which keeps costs down and prolongs the vaccine’s shelf-life
Diagnosis on a dime — many private-public partnerships are helping to streamline services that make diagnosis less dependent on technical training and costly high-tech facilities:
6. Detecting cervical cell abnormalities with acetic acid: Pre-cancerous cervical cancer lesions can be detected through “visual inspection with acetic acid” using vinegar and a flashlight. Diagnosing pre-cancerous changes could be done with items that most healthcare facilities, even households, have on hand, at around $1.60 per screening (American Cancer Society)
7. Low-resource setting options for treating TB: A new tuberculosis diagnostic tool developed by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and partners that can provide highly sensitive detection of tuberculosis and drug resistance in low-resource settings doesn’t require as much training or high-tech laboratory facilities to decipher (Global Health Technologies Coalition).
Treatment for many conditions that lead to secondary infections can have major impact on problems such as maternal and newborn health:
8. Kangaroo Mother Care: A low-cost approach designed to improve newborn health by thinking outside the incubator by getting new mothers and babies closer through exclusive breast-feeding (Thumbs up from both Save the Children and The Global Health Council)
9. Misoprostol for maternal health: The drug, already widely available in developing countries for treatment of stomach ulcers, has been proven effective for preventing and treating severe bleeding following childbirth (Family Care International)
10. Cotrimoxazole as preventive therapy for HIV+ people: The antibiotic is cheap, highly cost-effective and, when given to people living with HIV before they start ARV therapy, can reduce mortality by a third (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
11. Paromomycin IM Injection (PMIM): The Institute for OneWorld Health (iOWH) is launching a program in Nepal and Bangladesh to develop a therapy for the neglected tropical disease Visceral Leishmaniasis with the aim of adding very affordable PMIM to the list of safe treatment options (Global Health Technologies Coalition).
12. Comprehensive, rapid-impact medication packages: Neglected tropical diseases threaten millions throughout the developing world, but for just 50 cents, you can fund a rapid-impact package of medications to treat the seven most common NTDs (Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases).
Global health solutions don’t necessarily require radical research, expensive technology or piles of cash. Instead of throwing money at health problems, the trend has been to channel funds towards where they will pack the most punch. Major health improvements can be made in matter of cents.
For instance, many people are surprised to learn that pneumonia is, in fact, the number one killer of children under 5 in the developing world. Read about just how much of an affront it is to public health efforts that a child still dies every twenty seconds from such an inexpensively-treated and preventable illness like pneumonia in an op-ed written by Council President and CEO Jeff Sturchio.