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Archives for Innovation

Video of the Week: Maura O’Neill Previews the 2013 Global Diaspora Forum

Starting today, USAID and the State Department will co-host the third annual 2013 Global Diaspora Forum. The world’s largest gathering of diasporans, this year’s forum “Where Ideas Meet Action” aims to recognize, celebrate and inspire the work of American diaspora communities with roots from around the globe to contribute to the development of and diplomatic relations with their countries of origin.

Learn how USAID continues to expand and strengthen its engagement with diaspora communities in order to achieve development outcomes. Visit the website to watch online.

Throughout the forum, content will be live tweeted from @DiasporaIdea and @USAID. Join the conversation on Twitter using #2013GDF.

Saving & Empowering Lives through Clean Cooking Innovation

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health.

A major study published in December cited high blood pressure, alcohol, and tobacco as the top three health risks in the world. Could you guess the fourth? You probably did it last night.

The seemingly simple act of cooking a meal is responsible for 4 million deaths each year.

That’s because nearly 3 billion people burn solid fuels such as wood, charcoal, coal, and other fuels to cook every day. When burned in open fires and basic stoves, solid fuels emit a harmful smoke that causes a range of cancers, heart and lung diseases, developmental and neurological impacts, cataracts, and more.

Example of a pine needle powered cook stove. Photo credit: USAID

Inefficient and dangerous cooking practices are also a major cause of burns, and the acts of collecting and burning fuelwood lead to deforestation and the release of climate-changing gases, respectively.

Women and children have the primary responsibility for cooking and fuel collection in developing countries, and are therefore most at risk from the side effects: smoke inhalation, crippling burns, time lost for schooling or work, human or animal attacks during fuel collection, and myriad others.

But, you’re probably asking, how can technological innovation change such a seemingly intractable and global challenge? Enter the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Launched by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2010 with 19 founding partners under the leadership of the UN Foundation, today, the Alliance is comprised of more than 650 partners across 6 continents. They’ve joined the Alliance to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a market for clean, safe, efficient, and affordable cooking solutions. Our goal is for 100 million households to adopt clean cookstoves and fuels by the year 2020.

With our partners, including founding partner USAID, we are taking an all-of-the-above approach to ensure that as hundreds of millions of people enter the global middle class, they no longer cook as their ancestors have done since the beginning of human history:

  • Research: We are commissioning research with cookstove and fuel interventions that will help us better understand how to achieve the cleanliness and efficiency markers essential to save and improve lives and the environment, and to underscore once and for all that this is a major global development challenge that deserves awareness and funding on par with similar crises.
  • Standards: International standards to define cookstove cleanliness, safety, and efficiency had never existed until the Alliance and the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air began working with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The interim system that has been adopted is now in the process of being translated into permanent standards. A tiered system through the ISO will create global norms and strengthen a market for clean cooking solutions.
  • Testing centers: To carry out those standards and further propel local manufacturing and testing, the Alliance is supporting the enhancement or creation of testing centers in 12 countries worldwide. Previously, most stoves had to be sent to North America or Europe to be tested, proving very costly for manufacturers and impeding local growth of markets.
  • SPARK and Pilot Innovation Funds: The SPARK and the Pilot Innovation Funds are part of our plan to increase the level of resources, grants, and investment in the clean cooking sector. Each year, we will support entrepreneurs and innovation through at least $2.25 million. This year’s Pilot awardees were recently announced, and we look forward to announcing the SPARK recipients later this month.
  • Input from consumers: Each of the above steps will be fruitless if we aren’t engaged in dialogue with consumers at each step along the value chain: food taste; cooking style; stove design, weight and color; manufacturing; distribution; purchasing; and adoption. The Alliance and its partners have strong relationships with community associations, women’s groups, and others to ensure we hear directly from consumers about their economic, health, and standard of living aspirations, and then translate that information into action.

The Alliance and its partners strongly believe that cooking shouldn’t kill, and because you are reading this blog during USAID’s Global Health Month+ series, I suspect that you do, too. Find out about all of our market-enabling activities and join us at www.cleancookstoves.org.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Using Technology For STH Control

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

This originally appeared on the InterAction Blog.

I consider myself extremely fortunate and even spoiled in this 21st century with smart phones and so much mobile technology available. If I ever feel there is a need to make my life more convenient with technology, chances are I can go to the app store to download some utility that will help. And, even if it’s not 100% satisfactory, by virtue of having asked the question or conducted the search for this app, some techie out there is likely monitoring the query and I can probably be assured that in weeks, if not days, something better will be created.

So as I wrangle with the question of how the Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) community can more effectively and efficiently manage our disease control and elimination programs around the world, I hark back to how we can leverage the fact that almost 75% of the world have access to cell phones. The NTD sector should be paying close attention to the opportunities presented by the proliferation of mobile technology.

There has been interesting progress in the use of mobile technology, like this smart phone, in the fight against NTDs. Photo credit: InterAction

In April 2012, attendees of the Ninth Global Health and Innovation Conference overwhelmingly agreed that a key to transforming global health is to push the development of social enterprises toward mobile technology. The reach of mobile phones into even the poorest and most remote parts of the world has shown these devices to be the tool of choice for civil and social transformation.

Those working in the HIV sector were some of the first to leverage the utility of mobile phones to check on people living with HIV. As a substitute for home visits, which are expensive, time-intensive, and far from discreet, mobile technology became a key factor in dealing with the stigma of HIV. Mobile phones have also been used to send reminders to patients and caretakers to improve adherence to antiretroviral treatment regimens. Another Johnson & Johnson supported mHealth program, MAMA, is bringing health information to pregnant women in more than 40 countries.

Considering that more than two billion people worldwide are affected by NTDs, the development and use of mobile technology for preventing and controlling NTDs has lagged. However, one bright spot for the NTD sector is the development of mobile technology tools to report on the global prevalence of trachoma. Using data collected through surveys leveraging smart phones and SMS, comprehensive prevalence maps of the disease have been developed, which will greatly improve the tracking and treatment of individuals infected with NTDs. As noted by Dr. Simon Brooker of the London Center for Neglected Tropical Disease Research in The Guardian earlier in the year, “maps are important to the control and elimination of NTDs … [and] only now are we starting to develop this blueprint.”

Mobile technology can be used in many other facets of the control and elimination of NTDs, for example, informing communities when and where treatments will be distributed, sharing messages about the causes of infection and how to prevent them, and collecting and reporting treatment data to health centers.

Recently, there has been even more interesting progress in the use of mobile technology in the fight against NTDs. Isaac Bogoch and other researchers innovated a way to turn the lens of an iPhone camera into a field microscope to detect intestinal worms in childrens’ stool samples. This is particularly timely because the global health community is ramping up the administration of medicines donated to treat infection with intestinal worms, also known as soil-transmitted helminthes (STH).

The increase of treatments globally will mean a greater need for diagnostic testing to monitor the impact and effectiveness of the programs. This concept of converting a phone to a field microscope would reduce the cost of the testing by eliminating the need for desk top light microscopes. It will also allow for images to be saved for enhanced analysis later or sent to a central repository for batch analysis almost instantaneously. In addition, as the increased use of anti-parasitic medicines will result in an overall decrease in the number of STH in the infected populations, a more sensitive and robust diagnostic tool is needed. The authors noted that this is, indeed, the first generation of the mobile phone microscope for resource constrained settings, but that newer technologies are certain to come along to improve its sensitivity and specificity.

These recent developments in mapping and diagnostics reassure us that mobile technology for control of NTDs is gaining traction. With two billion people on our planet at risk of NTDs, there is a market for mobile technology to eliminate or control the NTDs. There is clearly still much to be done. The NTD community must encourage and leverage this potential to maximize the health and development gains that can be made using this technology in all aspects of our work. The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Why Open Data Matters: G-8 and African Nations Increase Open Data for Food Security

Jimmy Wambua, a social justice worker and young entrepreneur in Nairobi, Kenya, saw a problem. In a country where smallholder farmers grow the food that feeds the Kenyan people, crop yields were not reaching their full potential and growers were not getting a fair price. Decisions about what crops to plant and when were made on speculation and instinct, and farmers sold their crops based on prices offered by middlemen and traders. A solution seemed evident: increase access and sharing of information that already exists and is public, but is not in-use by the farmers. Jimmy joined the M-Farm organization that set up a text-message based mobile phone application for farmers to gain a better price by accessing market price for their crops- rather than relying on the word of the buyer- and provide a platform for farmers to sell their goods online. USAID contributed to the work of M-Farm- not through a grant or loan or other financial capital- but with information capital. With the release of an open data set from the Famine Early Warning System (FEWSNet) M-Farm now has access to ten years of historic data about market prices of crops, which show trends in crop price fluctuation, and enables better decision making on which crops to plant to yield the highest income.

Kenyan farmer shows her crops. Photo credit: Jimmy Wambua

M-Farm’s story was just one of dozens that took the stage April 29 & 30 at the G-8 International Open Agriculture Data Conference and showcased innovative organizations that use open data to support global food security. Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro of Mars Global shared progress on mapping the genomes of over 100 crops that are vital to food security, but are overlooked because they are not commercially viable. Palantir Technologies and Grameen Foundation displayed their open data app that they developed at USAID’s Hack for Hunger,which uses community knowledge worker-collected data and Palantir analytics to build a crop-specific food security early warning system for farmers in Uganda.

The concept of open agriculture data fuses transparency and technology to improve food security worldwide; farmers, entrepreneurs, and researchers recognize the impact and potential of increasing access to information and are increasingly receiving high-level support. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack touted the U.S. Government’s leadership role in increasing open data for development impact and for global growth. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, highlighted the use of open genomic data to leapfrog development of new agricultural products. Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, acting NOAA Administrator and the first American woman to walk in space, delivered an inspiring perspective of the role that data can play in transcending and unifying an Earth without country borders or sector divisions. Four hundred food security specialists, data scientists, and technology experts gathered with policy makers from G-8 and the six African New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition countries to work together to increase available information and launch G-8 country action plans to get more data open from both the public and private sector. U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Special Assistant to the President Todd Park cheered the work of the conference stating that, “by liberating data from the vaults of government and the private sector, we can accelerate the use of open agriculture and nutrition data to advance global food security while also fueling the growth of new businesses and jobs.”

The G-8 Heads of Delegation Valery Khromchenkov (Russia), Robert Turnock (Canada), Hideaki Chotoku (Japan), Tim Wheeler (United Kingdom), Guillou Marion (France), Martin Koehler (Germany), and Giulio Menato (European Union) listen to Agriculture Under Secretary Research, Education and Economics (REE) Dr. Catherine Woteki (U.S.) announce the action plans developed at the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture 2013. Photo Credit: USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

USAID has been consistently demonstrating its role as a leader in increasing open data. Multiple G-8 conference speakers joined because of products they had made as a result of the December 2012 Development DataJam that USAID’s Innovation & Development Alliances (IDEA) office co-hosted with the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy. At the DataJam, USAID leadership joined with other issue experts, innovators, data scientists, and entrepreneurs to commit to developing prototypes that use open data to improve international. Continuing the support of these and other data innovators and social entrepreneurs, last week USAID launched www.usaid.gov/developer with new datasets and tools that had previously not been available to the public, including some we support through Feed the Future the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Each of these datasets are useful on their own, and when compared and applied with other datasets from USAID and other organizations, they have the growing potential to dramatically increase the impact and efficiency of international assistance.

In an increasingly networked and tech-savvy world, open data has the potential for more people to use information for social good, and USAID and global development goals directly benefit from increasing access to information.Like any technological tool, open data is useless without the people applying and engaging with it. Only through active and consistent participation can we ensure that information is timely, useful, and used. We can expect that these changes will come. Let’s get that information online and useable. Let’s get data open. Food security data is just the beginning.

For more information on USAID’s open data work, visit www.usaid.gov/developer or email OpenAgData@usaid.gov.

Katherine Townsend serves as Special Assistant for Engagement in USAID’s office of Innovation & Development Alliances. Follow her on Twitter @DiploKat.

Technologies to Keep Mothers Safe

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

This Sunday—Mother’s Day in the United States—will be a day of light hearts and laughter for many. At PATH, we’re dedicated to developing simple, affordable technology to make sure becoming a mother is a time of joy the world over.

Elizabeth Abu-Haydar, right, with a mother in a prenatal clinic in Rajasthan, India. Photo Credit: PATH/Noah Perin

In some parts of the world—notably sub-Saharan Africa—childbirth remains an extremely dangerous time in a woman’s life. Some 300,000 women worldwide die each year just before or after delivery. Excessive obstetric bleeding— postpartum hemorrhage—causes 1 in 4 of these deaths. And mothers who survive aren’t out of danger. Those who live through severe postpartum hemorrhage are significantly more likely than other mothers to die within a year’s time, leaving their babies and families alone.

Elizabeth Abu-Haydar, public health specialist with our Technology Solutions program, looks for ways technology can make childbirth safer. On May 28, she’ll be presenting her work at Women Deliver, an international conference focused on improving the health and well-being of girls and women. To celebrate Mother’s Day, we asked Elizabeth about some of the technologies that hold promise for making childbirth safer.

What will you talk about at Women Deliver?

I’m going to highlight some of the technologies we’re working on to fill a gap that occurs when women experience severe postpartum hemorrhage. There’s a clear protocol that’s followed when a woman starts bleeding after delivery: She’s given medication and her abdomen is massaged, and in 62 percent of the cases, that works to stop the bleeding. But in those other roughly 40 percent of cases, the woman could potentially continue bleeding, and if she’s bleeding severely, even a healthy woman can die within two hours. Most of these women are not as healthy as they could be, and the biggest problem is that many of them are anemic.

Why does anemia make the problem worse?

These women have low iron stores, and the body during pregnancy requires more iron. If a woman starts bleeding and she doesn’t have iron stores, she’s likely to go into heart failure and shock much more rapidly than a woman who is healthy. In sub-Saharan Africa, where 40 to 50 percent of the women are anemic, that’s a huge problem.

What can we do about it?

We’ve been testing a device that makes it very easy to assess whether a woman is iron deficient or not. We call it a noninvasive anemia screening device. The device measures iron levels using a clip that attaches to the woman’s finger. Ideally, you would use it every time she comes in for her prenatal visit. If there’s a problem, you can start treatment and monitoring. The screening doesn’t require blood, it gives a reading in less than a minute, it doesn’t hurt, and it’s visual, so that it becomes a way to talk about iron with the woman. Plus, there are no sharps and no waste and no resupply issues either, which is a big, big deal.

What do you do to stop the bleeding once it starts?

One option is the balloon tamponade. It’s basically tubing attached to a vessel, such as a condom, that is inflated by pumping water into it. It’s inserted into the uterus and filled until it stops the bleeding. It is very effective and it’s very affordable.

Another option is the antishock garment, which looks a bit like a tight wetsuit. Its main purpose is to reverse shock. If a woman has bled profusely and her organs are shutting down, she starts going into shock. That’s when the antishock garment gets wrapped around her in a sequential manner starting from her legs up so that the blood is pushed to her vital organs. You can combine the antishock garment with the balloon tamponade. It’s a beautiful combination!

You sound very motivated—even though developing technologies is a long haul. What keeps you going?

You know, I was in Kenya in August, visiting 13 clinics that were run by midwives—not fancy, these were serving the slums of Nairobi. We talked about the balloon tamponade, and a couple of midwives had used it. They talk about the woman who came in to give birth, and they really thought she was going to die, and there was no way she was going to make it to the hospital, and somebody said, “Why don’t we use this balloon thing they were telling us about?” And they try it. And the woman survives. And she comes back a week later with her baby. That inspires me. That’s very exciting, I think.

Additional Resources

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Improved TB Diagnosis & Treatment: Research and Innovation Urgently Needed to Address Global Epidemic

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

In 1882, Dr. Robert Koch discovered Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB. In 1952, the first combination of antibiotics was used to treat. Today, thoughout the world, most people with TB are diagnosed with the same simple microscopy method that Koch used to identify the bacteria. Additionally, almost all are treated with the same basic antibiotics that have been used since mid-20th century. During the same time period, the HIV epidemic and spread of drug resistant TB have complicated diagnosis of TB. People with HIV who become sick with TB are less likely to be diagnosed correctly using simple microscopy, and this technique does not tell us whether or not the bacteria is resistant to anti-TB drugs. Moreover, with the alarming increase in drug resistant cases in recent years, we see the limits of available treatment. The drugs used to treat multi-drug resistant TB are not very effective and extremely toxic, and patients must take them for up to two years to achieve cure.

But the past decade has brought significant new tools to the fight against TB, including the Xpert MTB/RIF® diagnostic platform and potential new regimens to shorten the length of treatment. The Xpert test for TB diagnosis can tell us whether or not a person has TB AND whether or not the bacteria is resistant to Rifampicin, one of the most powerful anti-TB drugs, in less than two hours. Without Xpert, it can take up to two months to confirm drug resistance, which results in a long delay in starting appropriate treatment. Xpert is a relatively simple test that can be implemented with minimal training and infection control requirements, and recent negotiations with the manufacturer have resulted in a significant decrease in the price. The US government is supporting countries in regions with high HIV prevalence and high levels of drug resistance to introduce and implement this new diagnostic test.

On the treatment side of the equation, the U.S. government is supporting late stage research to test new regimens for multi-drug resistant TB that will reduce the treatment time from 18 to 24 months to 6 to 9 months. Additionally, we are working with global leaders to develop guidelines for the introduction of bedaquiline, the first new anti-TB drug in 50 years, to existing treatment regimens.

EXPOSED: The Race Against Tuberculosis (Official Trailer) from Aeras on Vimeo.

Despite these promising new tools, we need additional point of care TB diagnosis tools and shorter, less toxic regimens to reduce the treatment time even further and with fewer side effects, which can be debilitating for those on treatment for drug-resistant TB. The U.S. government will continue working with global leaders, national TB programs, civil society and at community level to support this critical work in the fight against TB.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Full Speed Ahead for Open Ag Data

This originally appeared on White House Office on Science & Technology Blog.

Last week, hundreds of innovators gathered at the World Bank IFC Center to brainstorm about how Open Data can be harnessed to help meet the challenge of sustainably feeding nine billion people by 2050.  The group included delegates from the G-8 group of nations, U.S. Government officials, private sector partners, Open Data advocates, technology experts, and nonprofit leaders – all participants in the first-of-its-kind G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture.

Participants in the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, including US Chief Technology Todd Park, listen to opening remarks by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Apr. 29, 2013. Photo Credit: Bob Nichols/USDA

The foundation for such collaboration was set by President Obama’s first ever global development policy which emphasizes broad-based economic growth, innovation, and partnership; and the President’s leadership on food security through the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative and Feed the Future.  Then, at the 2012 G-8 Camp David Summit, the G-8 nations, African partners, the private sector and civil society launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and committed to host a conference focused on sharing relevant data to help advance agriculture and ensure food security for people around the world. At the end of the year, the White House hosted a Global Development Data Jam—the first high-level U.S. Government event to feature the potential of Open Data to address global challenges.

Last week’s G-8 “Open Ag Data” conference hosted by the USDA, built on this important groundwork by focusing on ways to ensure that Open Data about agriculture are not only available, but also put to good use. It also highlighted some excellent work that’s already underway and making positive change in the Open Ag Data arena, including:

  • MFarm has built a mobile application that allows farmers to receive accurate, real-time crop-price information from five major markets in Kenya, via daily text message, six days per week. The service helps farmers to make informed decisions on what to plant when, how to price produce, and where to sell to the largest profit.  MFarm is currently refining their service and will soon begin integrating USAID data into their product to help deliver more accurate price information to users.
  • INSEAD has introduced Toto Agriculture, a smartphone interface fueled by USAID data that provides village-specific agricultural data. Users can use this free application to access localized information on soil, pests, climate, and planting tips in over 100 languages.
  • iPlant: A community driven collaborative of researchers, educators, and students working to enrich all plant sciences through the development of the cyberinfrastructure essential for modern biology. The collaborative can sequence the genome of an individual cow in 3 hours, taking the time of sequencing from months down to hours.

But this is just the beginning. At last week’s conference, USDA, USAID, and a number of other entities—both domestic and international—unleashed a host of new datasets, tools, and platforms—with more to come in the weeks and months ahead. For our part, the U.S. Government:

  • Launched The Food, Agriculture, and Rural “data community” on Data.gov, which offers more than 300 datasets (and growing!) that relate to the social, economic, and environmental aspects of agriculture. For example, the new community offers Quick Stats—a comprehensive tool for accessing agricultural data profiles by subject area or commodity, such as crops and plants, or livestock. Over the next few months, USDA will make these data available in a robust Application Programming Interface (API) to enable easier sharing of data by third party applications and services.
  • The Millennium Challenge Corporation released an open evaluation data catalog that contains household survey metadata from food security programs in Armenia, El Salvador, Ghana, and the Philippines, and more data is coming soon.
  • Launched USAID.gov/Developer, a page that curates APIs and datasets specifically for developers looking to scrub in and work with open global development data. APIs include the U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants, or Greenbook, which encompasses all international aid funding allocations.  This data will help developers and researchers more dynamically parse these data, that goes all the way back to the Marshall Plan.

We can’t wait to see what entrepreneurs, nonprofits, researchers, scientists and others around the world do with these new resources, and what exciting innovations emerge. We’re also excited to strengthen our partnership with other countries and the private sector to further liberate data and improve global food security.

The G-8 Open Data for Agriculture Conference was a great start.  We look forward to seeing the Open Ag Data movement continue—leveraging data, collaboration, and innovation to accelerate progress toward our food security goals.

There are steps you can take right now to get involved in the Open Ag Data movement:

Todd Park is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

Tom Vilsack is the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Video of the Week: LAUNCH Systems Challenge 2013

Last week, USAID and partners NASA, NIKE Inc., and the Department of State, held a LAUNCH 2020 Summit to kick off a new LAUNCH focus on systems innovation. LAUNCH is aimed at identifying, showcasing, and accelerating innovative approaches to specific global challenges. LAUNCH searches for visionaries whose world-class ideas, technologies, or programs show great promise for making tangible impacts on society. On April 24, the LAUNCH 2013 Systems Challenge went live, calling innovators to come up with programs and processes that will transform the system of fabrics to one that advances equitable global economic growth, drives human prosperity and replenishes the planet’s resources. The challenge closes on July 15.  We will also soon be opening our first LAUNCH “nano-challenge,” a call for solutions specifically aimed at university students.

Please visit www.launch.org for more information about the program. You can view the current challenge statement and submit an application.

Health and Economic Returns on Science and Innovation Investments for Global Health

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

In the past decade, U.S. investments in science, technology and innovation have led to critical breakthroughs in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of deadly global diseases. We now have a meningitis vaccine for African populations, a new test that can quickly diagnose drug-resistant TB and promising data indicating that a vaccine could prevent HIV infection. We have developed desperately needed new drugs for neglected diseases and have determined pathways to expand access to treatment for millions through programs like PEPFAR and USAID’s Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) program.

Doctor prepares malaria treatment. Photo credit: IMAD

However, there is still much work to be done. Global diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis take eight lives per minute. And so many young lives are taken, compounding the tragic loss of human potential – almost one in five of all global health deaths each year are in children under the age of five. In addition to the devastating health consequences, these diseases perpetuate the cycle of poverty. For example, the average TB patient loses 3-4 months of work and 30% of yearly household earnings because of the disease. Trachoma, a neglected tropical disease that is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness, results in an estimated $2.9 billion in lost productivity each year. Developing new tools to combat these diseases is critical not only for saving lives, but also for allowing individuals to achieve their earning potential and enabling impoverished nations to develop sustainable economies.

As we look ahead, a plethora of new technologies are poised to transform the way that we prevent, diagnose and treat global diseases. For example, advances in mobile technology are leading to a new generation of mobile health tools that will dramatically increase access to healthcare. Advances in genomics mean that scientists can track diseases on a molecular level, allowing them to identify outbreaks, understand patterns of disease transmission and develop targeted drugs and vaccines. We are truly on the brink of remarkable breakthroughs and have the opportunity to revolutionize global health. To seize this opportunity, we must call for continued investment to save lives, combat extreme poverty and accelerate progress.

Additional resource:

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Use of Technology in Malaria Prevention and Control Activities

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

More than ever, the world relies on technology for everyday activities in the work place. Technology brings us a host of efficiencies – saving us time, resources, and providing real-time response capabilities. Within the realm of global health, programs in the field are finding ways to use new technology for monitoring and evaluation, rapid exchanges of critical data and information, and general logistical purposes. Such efficiencies can equate to lives saved and reduced morbidity, drastically increasing the impact programs have on populations in need.

RTI has implemented a number of technology-based solutions to support the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) malaria prevention and control efforts throughout Africa.

Zanzibar District Malaria Surveillance staff visiting malaria positive households during a training session, June 2012. Photo credit: Mike McKay, RTI

Funding by PMI and other stakeholders, together with the leadership of the Zanzibar Malaria Control Program (ZMCP), has resulted in a dramatic decrease in malaria prevalence in Zanzibar. However, persistence of malaria transmission in surrounding areas (Tanzania mainland and Kenya) leaves the island vulnerable to sudden outbreaks and the re-establishment of ongoing, perennial malaria transmission. Through the USAID-funded Tanzania Vector Control Scale-Up Program, RTI International has worked closely with the ZMCP and PMI to develop Coconut Surveillance, a mobile application that builds on the Malaria Early Epidemic Detection System (MEEDS). MEEDS is an innovative mHealth system used by health facilities to report new malaria cases via simple-feature phone handsets, which ensures that epidemic outbreaks are identified within two weeks of their onset. Coconut Surveillance works through the MEED system by alerting district malaria officers to new local case reports. ZMCP district malaria officers are then guided through an active case detection protocol by Coconut Surveillance, which includes the following steps:

  1. Collect additional case data at reporting health facility,
  2. Visit household to collect family member data and test for malaria infection, and
  3. Record GPS-based household location.

Malaria surveillance officer interviewing woman from malaria positive household in Zanzibar, June 2012. Photo credit: Mike McKay, RTI

The accumulated data are synchronized with a shared database, enabling program officials to monitor results in real time, detecting cases, identifying localized outbreaks, responding within two weeks of case detection, and developing better strategies for disease elimination. ZMCP officers equipped with Coconut Surveillance on tablet computers receive new case alerts from MEEDS, and use Coconut Surveillance to collect additional data as they follow up on each new case.

MEEDS is currently used by all of Zanzibar’s 150 health facilities. From July to December 2012, Coconut Surveillance followed-up (PDF) on 980 newly reported cases, tested 3,228 household members, and identified 223 previously unidentified malaria cases in Zanzibar. MEEDS and Coconut Surveillance are helping Zanzibar to identify and treat many otherwise undiagnosed malaria cases, identifying hot spots and transmission patterns, and responding rapidly to new outbreaks. These mHealth applications are helping Zanzibar to sustain the remarkable gains it has made against this dangerous and debilitating disease.

Opportunities exist to expand on the lessons learned from these technology-based activities in malaria programs and introduce them as solutions to other global health projects that encounter similar challenges. The value added by these tools offers the opportunity to greatly increase efficiency, accuracy, and impact across the global health spectrum.

Watch MEEDS in action.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

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