Last night, the Saving Lives at Birth partnership announced three award nominations for transition-to-scale grants that have the potential to save the lives of mothers and newborns in rural areas of the developing world at the time of birth. We couldn’t be more excited about the announcement.

The award nominees – a mobile technology initiative in Ghana, an HIV and syphilis testing device in Rwanda and a treatment to prevent newborn infections in Nepal – have provided the most compelling evidence that their innovative and promising solutions are ready to be tested on much larger platforms.

USAID Administrator Raj Shah made the announcement at the high-level Every Woman, Every Child reception hosted by Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria and MDG Advocate. These $2 million grants will be implemented over four years.  The partners – USAID, the Government of the Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, and The World Bank – all congratulated the nominees for their ongoing efforts to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in rural areas of the world and encouraged them to keep going.

JSI, Columbia University, and Grameen Foundation – the latest Saving Lives nominees – are all eager to advance their work.

JSI will undertake a nationwide scale up of the antiseptic chlorhexidine, a promising treatment to prevent infection among newborns in Nepal.  Few interventions have shown such promise for rapidly reducing newborn mortality in some of the poorest parts of the world.  Currently almost 70 percent of infant deaths occur within the first month of life. The most common cause of death is infection.  In a pilot study, use of the antiseptic chlorhexidine for cord care was proven to reduce the risk of death by nearly a quarter in Nepal.  Using a highly integrated program that combines this promising innovation with a comprehensive approach to service delivery, innovative steps to build community awareness, and partnerships with the public and private sector, JSI aims to rapidly and sustainably increase demand, availability, and use of the product on a national scale.

Columbia University will scale up development and deployment of a novel, low-cost and simple testing device for HIV and syphilis in Rwandan community clinics.  Early detection and treatment of sexually transmitted infections in pregnant mothers is an extremely cost-effective measure to avoid adverse health consequences to both mothers and their children, yet these tests are normally not available in rural areas.  This revolutionary and unconventional approach to point-of-care diagnostics not only advances an important new front-line diagnostic that performs as well as those in big labs, but it also syncs the results to a central health records database using mobile health technology.  If proven successful, these groundbreaking devices can help prevent  thousands of stillbirths and reduce preventable health risks to mothers and children.

The Grameen Foundation will scale up their mobile technology initiative, Mobile Technology for Community Health, to two new districts in Ghana.   The integrated program – which enables midwives to communicate important information to patients via their mobile phones and allows community health workers to track and record important information on their patients – will increase access to accurate health information for pregnant women and provide the Ghana Health Service with detailed information on health service delivery and outcomes.  Through this program, approximately 14,000 pregnant women and 46,000 children under five will be empowered to get better care before and after birth – and the program will have important lessons for potentially going to full scale not only in Ghana but many other regions.

These three transition-to-scale nominees join the 19 seed grant nominees that were announced in late July – rounding out an exciting portfolio of innovative ideas with the potential for far-reaching impact on maternal and neonatal mortality and stillbirths.

We celebrate the latest nominations and look forward to the continued success of all of our nominees.