This guest blog was written by Harshad Sanghvi, vice president and medical director at Jhpiego
For me, the Global Health Council Award for Best Practices reaffirmed the power of small solutions for big problems. It validates the importance of striking out in unconventional ways and with untraditional approaches to solving the global health problems confronting us. Since accepting this prestigious award from the Council in 2009, I, along with a team of global health innovators, have been pursuing more strategies and developing new technologies to ensure universal coverage of key health interventions. Rather than waiting for women to come for care, we are taking services right to their homes.
By trusting and relying on the large numbers of dedicated, non-literate community health workers to deliver life-saving care to women where they live, we can address the inequity in access to health care between rich and poor that is unacceptable in today’s technology-driven world.
Just last summer, I spent several weeks in Nepal, working with a group of Johns Hopkins University bioengineering students, refining a low-cost, effective prenatal protein test for preeclampsia – the second leading killer of pregnant women in the developing world. The test — delivered through a magic-marker type pen – can be taken from house to house by a community health worker as she visits pregnant women who live far from a health facility. Our award accelerated our work on the protein pen.
Another group of our students who spent time in India and Tanzania have been working on an easy-to-use yet robust blood pressure device that would telegraph the reading through a simple icon, making it readily understandable to community health workers who cannot read or write.
Jhpiego is expanding its programs for community based distribution of misoprostol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage during home birth. The World Health Organization’s recent decision to include misoprostol on the list of essential drugs removes many of past hurdles in making this life saving intervention go to scale: scale in coverage, scale in quality, and scale in impact. In Afghanistan, we are well on our way to reach 20,000 women this year and give them what they need to prevent bleeding to death after birth, women who are unable to access a health facility or a skilled professional provider.
However, to create lasting change, we also need champions — among policymakers, scientists, financial backers and industry leaders. In Washington, Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U. S. Agency for International Development, has recognized the power of innovation in solving global health challenges. Last year, he inaugurated the Development Innovation Ventures awards, and Jhpiego was among the first recipients.
This year, Jhpiego has embarked on a new partnership with a visionary in the industrial sector, Tore Laerdal, managing director of Laerdal Global Health, who joins us in the pursuit of creating change and championing new innovations that have the power to save the lives of women throughout the world.
To the new recipient of the Global Health Council Award for Best Practices and to those who came before me, I believe we share a common goal, and that is to bring the best that science has to offer to women and families wherever they live. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it best: “I don’t want to live in a world where nearly 1,000 women die in childbirth every day.”