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Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development

By Wayan Vota on April 6, 2011

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Every two minutes, a woman dies in childbirth – 150,000 maternal deaths, 1.6 million neonatal deaths, and 1.2 million stillbirths occur each year. And in sub-Saharan Africa, women are 136 times more likely to die than in developed countries. Yet healthy mothers help raise healthy children who get better food and more time in school – leading to stronger families, communities and nations.

Groundbreaking ideas that can leapfrog existing products and conventional approaches

USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Government of Norway, Grand Challenges Canada, and the World Bank have joined to launch Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development. It calls on the brightest minds across the globe to identify and scale up transformative prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in rural, low-resource settings around the time of birth

We are accustomed to advances in computers and cell phones that leapfrog existing solutions. The Saving Lives at Birth Challenge is about nurturing that same energy and innovation to the challenge of protecting mothers and newborns in the poorest places on earth during their most vulnerable hours.

To accelerate substantial and sustainable progress against maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths at the community level, we need to harness the collective imagination and ingenuity of experts across a broad range of disciplines and expertise. The Saving Lives at Birth Challenge seeks innovative approaches to prevention and treatment across the following three areas.

  1. Technology Roadblock: lack of medical technologies appropriate for the community or clinic setting

    Saving Lives at Birth Challenge invites bold ideas for science and technology advances that prevent, detect or treat maternal and newborn problems at the time of birth. Examples include simpler or portable technologies for newborn resuscitation, feeding, warming, and care of preterm and low birthweight newborns, infection management, and prevention and treatment of hypertensive disorders like preeclampsia/eclampsia.

  2. Service Delivery Roadblock: too few trained, motivated, equipped and properly located health staff and caregivers

    Saving Lives at Birth Challenge invites bold ideas for new approaches to provide high-quality care at the time of birth. Examples may include new ways of using information and communication technology (ICT) to improve health and healthcare delivery in rural areas, approaches that bring the benefits of fixed health systems to the community setting, new incentive plans for recruiting and retaining skilled personnel, training programs for community-based or alternative health workers, or better ways to refer and transport sick newborns and mothers with complications.

  3. Demand Roadblock: mothers in resource-poor settings often lack information about what services they need, what they can do, and what a difference it can make to access health care or adopt healthy behaviors.

    Saving Lives at Birth Challenge invites bold ideas for empowering and engaging pregnant women and their families. Examples may include innovative use of Information and computer technology (ICT) to incentivize individuals to seek care and/or adopt healthy behaviors; or mass communication methods that can change individual and collective behavior to improve outcomes around the time of birth.

Saving Lives at Birth Challenge will invest in a portfolio of projects.

Through this portfolio, Saving Lives at Birth Challenge seeks groundbreaking innovations by providing seed fund grants of up to $250,000 each to support the development and validation needed to bring either component innovations or integrated innovations to proof of concept; and transition fund grants of up to $2 million USD each to scale integrated innovations for which there is either compelling evidence of a cost effective impact on the lives of pregnant women and newborns that justifies the long-term public funds or a credible plan for long-run scaling using private funds without a subsidy. Transition funding is limited to integrated innovations.

A brief application is all that is needed to apply, and applications will have a rapid turnaround time – grants will be selected within 5 months from the proposal submission deadline. So don’t wait – apply today!

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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