Friday Think: meet a 3D-printed implant that saves lives

Close-up of child with tracheal implant.

Kaiba Gionfriddo is one of three boys who received a lifesaving implant made from a 3D printer. Photo: University of Michigan Health System.

Three small children are alive today because they received medical implants that were made from a 3D printer. What’s more, these devices will eventually dissolve, leaving little evidence that they ever existed.

A splint made by a 3D printer.

A splint implant that was made from a 3D printer, designed to keep airways open. Photo: University of Michigan Health System.

The children were all born with tracheobronchomalacia, a life-threatening condition that can cause developing windpipes to collapse and prevent normal breathing. It’s a devastating condition with slim chances for survival. But a recent study shows how this custom-designed airway splint is providing new hope.

Dr. Glenn Green details how this groundbreaking technology was developed at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Here’s the story, from idea to procedure, courtesy of the University of Michigan Health System: Continue reading »

Leaping into digital health in Ben Tre, Vietnam

A young girl receives an immunization.

PATH’s Digital Immunization Registry System is helping health care workers make the leap from a paper-based to a digital health care system. Photo: PATH/Nguyen Ba Quang.

On immunization day at Phu Hung Commune Health Center in southern Vietnam, the atmosphere is loud and sometimes boisterous. The sound of fifty women talking and babies crying reverberates off the concrete walls.

“Things are getting easier,” explains Ms. Linh, who is responsible for the Expanded Immunization Program (EPI) at the small clinic. “Before it took me more than a day to manually generate the list of who to invite to immunization day; now I do it with the computer in just 15 minutes.”

PATH’s Digital Immunization Registry System (DIR) is helping Ms. Linh and her colleagues across Ben Tre Province make the leap from a paper-based to a digital health care system. Earlier this month I made the two hour trek from Ho Chi Minh City to visit two Commune Health Centers engaged in this painstaking but ultimately rewarding transition. Continue reading »

How Senegal’s malaria-tracking helped beat Ebola

Philippe Guinot, PATH’s country program leader for Senegal, shares how that country was able to limit Ebola to only one case, with help from lessons PATH learned while building malaria surveillance systems there.

Senegalese man in face mask.

Samba Tine, a malaria case investigator at work in a Senegalese village. Lessons learned from building a malaria surveillance system in Senegal allowed PATH to help the country rapidly scale up an effective Ebola surveillance system. Photo: Speak Up Africa.

The first (and only) Ebola case in Senegal was confirmed on a Friday. I was at my desk in PATH’s office in Dakar, the country’s capital, when I was informed that a young man had traveled to Senegal from neighboring Guinea, bringing the deadly hemorrhagic fever with him.

Portrait of Philippe Guinot.

Philippe Guinot is PATH’s country program leader in Senegal.

It was April 29, 2014, and the Ebola epidemic was just beginning to gain international attention. My staff and I were shocked that the disease had struck Senegal. By Saturday, many Senegalese were in a panic.

Yet contrary to Guinea’s experience, where thousands have died, the disease was stopped in its tracks in Senegal. No one else was infected. Not one person died. Continue reading »

Friday Think: how one text asking for help launched a lifesaving service

Map of US states, showing where teens are most affected by suicidal thoughts.

Crisis Text Line receives texts from all over the country and maps out real-time mental health trends so local providers can anticipate intervention service needs. Image: Crisis Text Line.

It’s not unusual for Nancy Lublin’s employees to spend valuable time texting while they’re on the job. In fact, Lublin encourages it. As the CEO of DoSomething, Lublin’s employees regularly send out text messages that inspire young people to advocate for social causes. But after one of her employee’s messages received an alarming response from a teen in trouble, Lublin launched into action and started the first 24/7, nationwide crisis-intervention text-message hotline.

As an intervention resource, Crisis Text Line (CTL) is primarily used by teens who prefer to text message over calling into a hotline. But an offshoot of the resource is that it’s also building a “real-time crisis-map” as reporter Jessi Hempill writes in a recent WIRED article. Continue reading »

What a sight: a country winning the fight against malaria

Lesley Reed, a senior writer and editor at PATH, spent ten days in Zambia traveling with photographer Gabriel Bienczycki to cover PATH’s malaria prevention program. She brings this story to us. 

A group of Zambian children stand together.

View this slideshow on to meet some of the inspiring Zambians who are eliminating malaria in their country. Photo: PATH/Gabriel Bienczycki.

What a difference ten years can make. When I traveled to Zambia in 2003, the hospitals were overflowing with feverish children delirious with malaria. The effects of the disease were debilitating for the entire country: mothers miscarried, fathers couldn’t farm or fish and their families went hungry, children—if they survived—missed weeks of school.

But not long after my visit, Zambia started an ambitious effort to defeat the disease. And on a return visit this past December, I found something entirely different: people everywhere talking about the end of malaria.

Malaria has never been eliminated in a sub-Saharan African country, but Zambia is leading the way. The effort is a sight to behold. Continue reading »

13 medicines that could save millions of mothers’ and children’s lives

Woman in white blouse holding a young boy in her arms.

In 2012, Malawi’s government signed on to a global initiative called the UN Commission on Lifesaving Commodities, pledging to make a list of simple medicines and technologies available to women and children around the country. Photo: PATH/Evelyn Hockstein.

Earlier this year, the government of Malawi did something extraordinary for the mothers and children in my home country.

They updated a list.

That might not sound like much, but this list could save the lives of millions of pregnant women and their babies.

Portrait of Maziko Matemba.

Guest contributor Maziko Matemba is executive director of the Health and Rights Education Programme in Malawi. Photo: PATH/Janie Hayes.

The situation in Malawi is alarming: 1 woman out of every 18 dies from basic complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Pregnancy is such a dangerous time that expecting Malawian women are often said to have “one foot in the grave.”

The loss of life from these complications is unnecessary. Common causes of maternal and newborn death—such as postpartum bleeding or newborn sepsis—are preventable with simple medicines and technologies.

Since 85 percent of the country’s citizens live in rural areas, clinics are the only access to healthcare for the majority of the population. The medicines these clinics stock truly mean the difference between life and death. The challenge is getting medicines to those who need them most. Continue reading »

Creating a better future for everyone, no matter where they live

Steve Davis speaks at the 2015 Seattle Breakfast for Global Health.

“This is an extraordinary time. We have the opportunity to be part of a global movement that is saving and improving lives, and to change the course of history.” Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH. Photo: PATH/Christopher Nelson Photography.

Last November, on a trip to India with PATH supporters, we visited a village in Bihar. Bihar is one of India’s poorest states, with very high rates of maternal and newborn mortality and a literacy rate of just 64 percent. We traveled out to the Kurkuri village clinic, where dozens of people were waiting for immunizations. At the front of the line was a petite, white-haired woman, holding her 3-year-old granddaughter Meni.

I’ll never forget what she said.

She said she was terrified of Japanese encephalitis and wanted to protect Meni with the vaccine. It may seem simple, but by vaccinating Meni she was doing more than protecting her against Japanese encephalitis; she was advocating for her granddaughter’s future. Continue reading »

Saving lives through essential vaccines: reimagining “routine” immunization

Health worker injects vaccine into the upper arm of a young boy while another smiling boy watches.

Parents, health care workers, policymakers, benefactors—all are needed to ensure that children in countries around the globe receive routine immunizations. But do we undersell the value of this lifesaving innovation by calling it “routine”? Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Look up the word routine, and you’ll find the synonyms “humdrum,” “monotonous,” and “dull.” Routine immunization is anything but monotonous—it saves millions of lives, prevents disability, and is continuously monitored and re-evaluated as new information becomes available. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the way we talk about the routine immunization schedule to better reflect its importance and complexity. Immunizations are not routine, but vital, critical, necessary—they are essential. Continue reading »

SwitchPoint 2015: innovation, ingenuity, and global development

Collage of Switchpoint photos and illustrations.Last month hundreds of participants from around the world met in the artsy community of Saxapahaw, North Carolina, for the fourth annual SwitchPoint conference, produced by IntraHealth International.

Claudia Harner-Jay.

Author Claudia Harner-Jay is a senior commercialization officer at PATH. Photo: PATH.

This two-day gathering brings together great ideas, tools, and people who are making a real difference in the world in areas such as humanitarian innovation, global health, and technology.

I was honored to attend and speak about innovation curation, ingenuity, and global development, inviting the audience to ponder what innovation means in the context of global health (giving examples from PATH’s 40-year history), where innovation comes from, and how lasting global progress requires cross-sector collaboration to achieve impact at scale. With Kennedy Odede, a social entrepreneur and founder of Shining Hope for Communities (located in the slums of Nairobi), I also ran one of the 22 microlabs—small interactive workshops with 30 people—on how stakeholder considerations influence the development and advancement of innovations. Continue reading »

Managing menstruation in low-resource settings: are cups the key?

School girls gather in a group.

Managing a period is challenging in low-resource settings where girls may have a 10-hour (or more) school day. Photo: PATH/Wendy Stone.

Hope Randall, communications associate at PATH, recently interviewed Nancy Muller, senior program officer for our Devices and Tools Program, to learn more about PATH’s work in menstrual hygiene and solutions that can make an impact in low-resource settings. Following are excerpts from their interview.

How did you first become involved with the issue of menstrual hygiene?

In 2006, I was en route to Seattle from Uganda. I was traveling with our very own Sara Tifft, director of the Sayana Press Pilot Introduction and Research project at PATH, who asked me what I thought low-income girls in Africa did when they had their periods. I felt like the bottom of the plane had dropped out! I had never thought about it. I became a bit obsessed with understanding how girls and women manage their periods, especially if they live in rural areas. My first passion was medical waste management, which was great preparation for my work in menstrual hygiene management. Continue reading »