Thinking big for babies and mothers with PATH’s Cyril Engmann

A woman carries a sleeping baby in a backpack.

“As a frontline health worker, I don’t take care of a critically ill baby and not talk with his/her mother and father about contraception, nutrition, diarrhea, vaccinations, early childhood development. It’s a very comprehensive package.” —Dr. Cyril Engmann. Photo: PATH/Evelyn Hockstein.

Dr. Cyril Engmann, world-renowned expert in newborn health, is PATH’s director of Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN). Deborah Kidd, senior communications officer for the Vaccine Development Program at PATH, shares excerpts from her interview with Cyril about his team’s work, his vision for integration, and reflections on his newest role. 

Q: Tell me why a focus on mothers is pivotal for global health and development.

A: We all appreciate the incredible role that mothers play. Without them, the data suggest mortality rates increase significantly in their children. Mothers are children’s best advocates, and being able to empower, educate, and equip mothers (and fathers) to be able to advocate confidently for their children is very powerful.

Q: How does PATH’s MNCHN Program integrate a focus on those first critical newborn weeks with further healthy development?

A: I saw this in action when I traveled to South Africa and Mozambique to visit our Windows of Opportunity project, a comprehensive focus on a child’s first 1,000 days. This is a critical time period that shapes long-term physical, cognitive, and emotional health.

Cyril Engmann.

Cyril Engmann is the director of the Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) Program at PATH. Photo: PATH.

Early childhood development is the next frontier in MNCH. We’ve had a survival lens for the last 10-15 years, and necessarily so. But now we need to broaden to not just ensuring a child is surviving, but also thriving.

PATH is carving a niche role leveraging the health system to mediate early childhood development, including focusing on the mother before, during, and after pregnancy and integrating education and surveillance on developmental milestones and assessments of risk factors with routine clinic visits, etc. It was terrific to see how excited the health care workers were to implement and then witness the benefits of early childhood development and the commitment of families, especially mothers, to this.

We are helping clinicians and families anticipate a child’s health needs and proactively recognize when early development milestones aren’t being met. An ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure. Now they can intervene early, during the most critical period of time, to make a long-term impact.

Q: The Every Mother, Every Newborn Plan is a very practical resource for countries; it reminds me of the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPP-D). Now that we have both of these plans in hand and in practice, do you see an opportunity for further integration?

A: I’m a firm believer in the power of thinking big “with the lid off” so to speak. I believe that if one does not have a vision, a sense of how one can make things work, and then a means to measure that effort, it definitely won’t happen. I think we should integrate further; it’s almost irresponsible of us not to.

A lot of people might say that is blue-sky thinking. But how much would the sum of the parts be, how audaciously huge, if we could harness more efforts? To paraphrase Nelson Mandela: “Everything seems impossible until you do it.” With the Every Newborn Plan, some people thought that was too blue-sky, and now it’s come to pass. There have been mothers who have looked at their children who are critically ill, even with doctors saying they are going to die, and some of them have kept that blue-sky approach and their children have lived.

Is broader integration blue-sky? Maybe. Is it impossible? I’d say not.

Read the full interview with Dr. Engmann on PATH’s Defeat Diarrheal Disease website.

Guest contributor Deborah Kidd is a senior communications officer for the Vaccine Development Program at PATH.

More information

Friday Think: where philanthropist billionaires put their money

Infant smiles up at camera from her mother's lap.

In a recent survey, health remains the top cause supported among philanthropists in the US, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

In the world of philanthropy, an increasing percentage of uber-wealthy donors—many of whom have noticed progress in the number of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals—are seeking out worthy causes that deliver global health impact. And that’s heartening news for nonprofits in health and social equity.

Journalist Matt Petronzio covers the news in a recent Mashable article.

According to the 2015 BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index, which surveyed 400 philanthropists with at least $5 million in investable assets in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, health issues remain the most-supported cause across all four regions.

Bar chart showing percentage of philanthropists supporting five causes, including health, by region.

BNP Paribus Individual Philanthropy Index chart. Infographic: Statista.

Petronzio also noted some interesting trends among billionaires in the report.

The Index also found an activist streak growing among billionaires. Around 52% of respondents saw “impact/mission investing” as the most promising trend in philanthropy. Impact investing means pouring money in socially responsible companies to prioritize social and environmental returns, even if it meant lower financial returns—a radical change from previous decades in which financial returns were the main consideration.

Profile photos of David Wu.

David Wu is PATH’s chief development officer. Photo: PATH.

The survey results are good news for David Wu, chief development officer at PATH, who’s quick to point out that many of PATH’s supporters, regardless of their level of income, give because they’re concerned about health equity around the world.

“To our donors, philanthropy is increasingly focused on impact and on long-term, sustainable solutions. They understand that health is inextricably connected to poverty and social equity—and they’re engaged on a global level.”

David adds that PATH’s recently announced Reach Campaign will carry the organization’s impact even farther by making progress against the issues at the root of health inequity. “PATH’s donors approach their involvement as partners, investing in the opportunity to influence not just health, but development and social justice as well.”

Read this story in its entirety at Mashable. You may also download the complete report from Forbes Insights after providing an email sign up.

Friday Think logo

Each week, we scour the news for the hottest stories on innovation. Our weekly feature, The Friday Think, highlights one we’ve found particularly fascinating.

Water treatment made easy: new device needs just water, salt, and electricity

Worldwide more than 700 million people lack access to good-quality sources of drinking water. This health inequity has deadly consequences: safe water is critical for preventing diarrheal disease, one of the leading killers of children in developing countries.

For people in many parts of the world, a typical day includes collecting water in containers and carrying it home for cooking, washing, and drinking. Fetching water may take over an hour, and too often the water contains pathogens that cause disease.

Woman gathers water at a lakeside, stands next to a large number of jerrycans.

More than 700 million people worldwide don’t have access to good-quality sources of drinking water. Photo: PATH/Tom Furtwangler.

Responding to this challenge, MSR (Mountain Safety Research Global Health) and PATH have spent several years developing a small, easy-to-use chlorine maker appropriate for resource-limited settings. It’s called the MSR SE200™ Community Chlorine Maker. Continue reading »

Friday Think: 10 “scrappy” award-winning inventions

Biplane parked in a field.It takes guts to champion an innovative idea or invention. Often, an idea begins as a hunch to solve a problem, a hastily drawn sketch. Then years of development may pass before a new reality is created, making life better. But to get to that point, the potential value of an innovation must be recognized and nurtured.

Each year the editors of Popular Science identify 10 outstanding inventions, all of which are designed to solve real problems. This year was no exception, and there were several that caught our attention as they relate to global health solutions. Following is an excerpt from the Popular Science feature: Continue reading »

PATH launches hometown awareness campaign to increase reach

A PATH billboard with the Seattle Space Needle in the background.

You might come across one of these PATH billboards if you’re in Seattle this summer. They’re one of the ways we’re showing how innovations create health equity around the world, from idea to impact. Photo: Tracy Romoser.

As a leader in global health innovation, PATH has a nearly 40-year track record of getting lifesaving solutions to the people who need them most. Seattle has become a hub for global health, and we’ve been at the forefront. And the recently announced Reach Campaign will carry our impact even farther.

But what does it really take to change millions of lives? This is something we get asked all the time, even in Seattle. So we’re asking our hometown and you to find out by taking a journey with us—the journey of innovation.

We can change lives for the better through global health innovation

PATH focuses on bringing health equity to women and children in some of the poorest regions of the world by advancing health innovation from idea to impact. We call this process the journey of innovation.The Journey of Innovation: learn more.

Through our work in vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations, we’ve successfully moved high-impact innovations through the journey hundreds of times, improving the lives of people in more than 70 countries. It’s not easy, but we’re expert navigators. And we mobilize partners every step of the way: governments, communities, philanthropists, organizations, and other allies. Continue reading »

Reach higher: our bold push for better health worldwide

Today we announced the Reach Campaign, a major fundraising initiative to increase our impact around the world. And we invite you to join us.

Profile photos of David Wu.

Guest contributor is David Wu, chief development officer at PATH. Photo: PATH.

We’re raising $100 million to accelerate progress toward a world where health is in reach for everyone, no matter where they live. The Reach Campaign is a first for PATH—a bold campaign to engage our local and global community to help us dramatically increase the impact of our work.

The campaign focuses on four areas where there’s a great need and an equally great opportunity for change: malaria, women’s and reproductive health, maternal and newborn health, and child health. Funds raised through our Reach Campaign will spur dramatic health gains by investing in the next generation of innovations so we can bring better health and opportunity to women, children, and communities everywhere.

Following are some highlights from our launch event, the Breakfast for Global Health in Seattle.

Continue reading »

Networking is a science for PATH’s Jessica Shearer

Jessica Shearer.

Jessica Shearer, senior technical officer, Monitoring and Evaluation team. Photo: Jessica Shearer.

Meet Jessica Shearer, senior technical officer on the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team where she’s focusing on how PATH can better use data for decision-making.

Q: Much of your work focuses on what you call “network science.” How can understanding networks help PATH improve the lives of women and children?

A: A network is a set of nodes and the relationships between them. Nodes can be people, organizations, animals, computers. . .anything, really. The relationships between them can be almost anything as well: social, exchange, professional, sexual, and more. Social networks exist all around us as part of our social world, but more often they are created to serve a specific function (for example, PATH is a partner of the Joint Learning Network, which focuses on countries implementing universal health coverage). Continue reading »

Friday Think: how do you measure health on a global scale?

Interactive chart showing effect of various injuries and diseases on disability-adjusted life years.

The Global Burden of Disease online tool (GBD Compare) provides open access to data compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and University of Washington. Image: University of Washington.

In case you’re wondering, there is data on per capita consumption of lunch meat in Bulgaria. It’s in the Global Burden of Disease report where, among other things, you’ll find information on everything from road injuries and iron deficiency rates to frequency of nonvenomous animal bites around the world.

On the surface, data in the report—the result of studies by the nonprofit Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)—may seem unrelated. But the impact of the report, says Jeff Bernson, director of monitoring and evaluation at PATH, is felt globally. Continue reading »

Protecting Kids: stories of immunization from home and afield

Laotian girl receives oral vaccine.

This much we know: around the globe, people want their children to have healthy, productive, and full lives. More than anything, they want to protect their kids.

Illustration of globe with text, #ProtectingKids: Global stories for World Immunization Week.We’ve witnessed the desire to protect a child. We’ve seen how parents and families react when they’re told a miraculous new vaccine can give them the power to fight a disease. The commitment of health workers who will stop at nothing on their quest to deliver it. We’ve also seen the sadness when that “miracle” is not available or arrives too late.

Welcome to Protecting Kids, a collection of stories curated from friends and partners of PATH for World Immunization Week.

Read through the whole collection below and follow #ProtectingKids to join the online conversation.
Continue reading »

The end of malaria is within reach

Health workers sitting outside with group of village residents.

PATH and the Zambia National Malaria Control Centre are leading an effort to rapidly eliminate the malaria parasite from large regions of the country. The approach is to treat everyone, including people who are carrying the disease but don’t know it. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

For thousands of years, people around the world have suffered from malaria. Although the illness has been largely eliminated from North America and Europe, it is still found in nearly 100 countries.

Portrait of Kent Campbell.

Author Dr. Kent Campbell directs PATH’s Malaria Center of Excellence at PATH. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

Each year, malaria affects more than 200 million people and kills about 600,000. Most deaths are among children under five, and children who survive may have lifelong mental disabilities.

Continue reading »