Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saving Lives at Birth

An international program addressing the critical need to go beyond conventional approaches could help to advance maternal and newborn health in rural and low resource settings. This is especially important in Africa where pregnant African women are 135 times more likely to die during childbirth than in other regions in the world.

A new program has been introduced to specifically address the period when women and their newborns are most vulnerable and need the most help. That brief window of time is between the onset of labor and 48 hours after birth when women and children die.

Grant funding (RFA-OAA-11-000006) was announced to support the program called “Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development” to find innovative prevention and treatment approaches to use with pregnant women and newborns, develop new technologies to improve the safety of birth, and to help women with health issues.

To support this program, the USAID, Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, and the World Bank are partnering to provide funding for $13 million for the grant program’s first round of funding. Over 5 years, the partners aim to invest at least $50 million in groundbreaking and sustainable projects.

The program especially seeks for-profit companies, non-governmental organizations, academic medical research institutions, faith-based organizations, civic groups, and foundations to work together or to form partnerships to help to solve the severe issues women internationally have birthing their babies and then keeping them alive.

The program seeks bold ideas that will help to prevent, detect, or treat maternal and newborn problems at the time of birth. Examples include developing simpler or portable technologies for newborn resuscitation, feeding, warming, to take care of preterm and low birth weight newborns, manage infections, how to develop more efficient ways to transport sick newborns and mothers with complications and how to prevent and treat hypertensive disorders like preeclampsia/eclampsia.

New ways to use information and communication technology is needed to bring new approaches to upgrading health systems in communities. Technology can also be used to recruit and retain skilled personnel and provide training programs for community-based or alternative health workers.

In addition, the Challenge is looking for innovative ways to use technology to incentivize individuals to seek care and /or adopt appropriate health behaviors. This may require development of new mass communication methods to change individual and collective behavior to improve outcomes at birth.

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