Dr. Christopher J. Elias is president and CEO of PATH, an international nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health.
A new mother experiencing excessive bleeding after childbirth can die within minutes if the bleeding isn’t stopped. For women in developing countries, time too often runs out before they can get help. Postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal mortality—deaths that cause a ripple effect on the children, families, and communities left behind.
What if a simple device costing less than $10 could save a new mother’s life? USAID is building on its decades-long partnership with PATH by investing in our effort to develop a cost-effective solution: a balloon tamponade that can stop postpartum bleeding within 5 to 15 minutes and can be used in peripheral health facilities.
With a new grant of approximately $100,000 from Development Innovation Ventures—USAID’s new venture capital–style fund—we will adapt this existing technology to make it affordable in developing countries. Our goal is to lower the price from as much as $312 per device to less than $10 by streamlining the design and manufacturing process.
Since 1987, PATH and USAID have worked together under a separate collaboration, the HealthTech program, to advance high-impact, low-cost health tools and technology breakthroughs designed for use in low-income countries. USAID recently announced it will renew its investment in the program through the HealthTech V Cooperative Agreement, committing $3 million in the first year.
This partnership will continue to leverage USAID’s investment to attract additional resources and expertise from the private sector, ensuring the sustainability needed to scale up lifesaving innovations. Our public-private partnership approach has led to innovative solutions for some of the world’s most pressing health concerns, including:
- The SoloShot™ syringe that automatically disables after a single use to prevent reuse and infection from contaminated needles. Since commercial introduction by our private-sector partner, BD, 6 billion vaccinations have been delivered using SoloShot™ syringes by public health programs in more than 40 countries.
- HIV dipstick technology that provides point-of-care diagnosis for patients and inexpensive data collection for field surveillance and epidemiological use. PATH transferred the technology to manufacturers in four developing countries, with total sales now exceeding 19 million tests.
- Development of a malaria immunochromatographic strip test for the most deadly malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, allowing same-day results. This technology was transferred to private-sector partners, with more than 40 million tests sold to date.
- The vaccine vial monitor, a dime-sized sticker that adheres to a vaccine vial and changes color to warn health workers if a vaccine has been spoiled by heat exposure. It prevents workers from having to throw out vaccines if they aren’t sure whether they can be safely used. We estimate the monitors, manufactured by our private-sector partner, Temptime, will allow health workers to identify more than 230 million doses of damaged vaccine and to deliver 1.4 billion more doses in remote settings, saving more than 140,000 lives.
In a time of fiscal constraints, investing in simple, practical, and affordable health technologies is money well spent in the effort to solve global health challenges. USAID’s commitment to bringing cost-efficient and effective innovations to scale will be an essential driver in ensuring health solutions developed by PATH and others reach those who need them most.