Friday Think: can parks help prevent disease?

Child swinging on swing set.

A new study shows the potential that conservation efforts have on better health. Photo: PATH/Mike Wang.

You might assume that higher rates of respiratory infections occur next to roads that produce environmental risk factors such as vehicle exhaust and increased particulates. However, in the Brazilian Amazon, new roads are linked to fewer cases of acute respiratory infections, likely because roads provide easier access to health care. And yet these same roads are also linked to higher occurrences of malaria.

This prompted researchers to ask the question, “Can we cultivate surroundings to prevent diseases?” In other words: can protected areas like parks help keep people healthy?

Julie Beck of The Atlantic shares a look at a new study that explores the health impacts of rapid land-use change and conservation efforts in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. The study focuses on three health areas: diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, and malaria. Continue reading »

Why PATH’s growing presence in Uganda is “no accident”

Portrait of Emmanuel Mugisha.

Dr. Emmanuel Mugisha, our country program leader in Uganda, shares why PATH’s work in that country is growing rapidly. Photo: PATH/Lynn Heinisch.

Q: What is contributing to PATH’s growth in Uganda?

A: Our staff and programs have grown tremendously. That isn’t an accident; it’s due to positive, long-term collaborations between Ugandan and headquarters staff.

Group of girls in light blue uniforms stand, some cluthing their arms, before a man at a desk filling out records. Photo: PATH/Robin Biellik.

Schoolgirls in Uganda, some still holding their arms, line up to confirm they just received the HPV vaccine. PATH/Robin Biellik.

We’ve welcomed many PATH projects and programs, along with internal and external visitors.

Most importantly, I think that every piece of work we have been asked to do, we have done it efficiently and with great results.

In the last eight years, we have evaluated more than 20 health technologies and products in Uganda—including the widely celebrated Sayana® Press. Continue reading »

A first in 50 years: how a new diaphragm design made its US debut

Editor’s note: We’re celebrating the US product launch of the Caya® contoured diaphragm*—the first new diaphragm design to enter the US market in more than 50 years. PATH, CONRAD, and our research partners designed this single-size diaphragm, originally developed as the SILCS diaphragm, to expand women’s options for nonhormonal contraception.

Here to look back at the development story is SILCS team leader Maggie Kilbourne-Brook, a program officer with PATH’s Devices and Tools Program.

Group of researchers holding diaphragms.

Caya® contoured diaphragm is a new contraceptive option now available in the US. PATH and our partners are working to bring this one-size fits-most diaphragm to more women in low-resource settings. Photo: MatCH Research, South Africa.

The first new diaphragm design in over 50 years

Portrait of Maggie Kilbourne-Brook.

Author Maggie Kilbourne-Brook is the SILCS team leader and a program officer with PATH’s Devices and Tools Program.

The US product launch of the Caya diaphragm is an important step toward introducing diaphragms to a new generation of women who may never have seen or heard of this method.

Like a traditional diaphragm, the Caya, originally called the SILCS diaphragm during development, is inserted into the vagina before sex. It covers the cervix to help prevent pregnancy and is used with a contraceptive gel.

What makes the Caya diaphragm different is that its special features—such as the one-size fits-most design—were based on inspiration and input from women and health care providers. Continue reading »

Strengthening markets for reproductive health needs

Amie Batson, PATH’s chief strategy officer, shares how PATH’s partnerships play a hand in developing and sustaining a market for reproductive health commodities. Following is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared on the NextBillion Health Care blog. 

Two women holding a female condom in packaging.

PATH and our partners talk with women all over the world about reproductive health options. Photo: PATH.

I believe—as do my colleagues at PATH—that every woman around the world, no matter where she lives, should have access to options to meet her reproductive health needs. Access to these options—characterized by the widespread availability of well-designed, high-quality, acceptable, and affordably priced products—relies upon strong, healthy markets.

Portrait of Amy Batson.

Amie Batson is chief strategy officer at PATH. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

So what do we do differently in low- and middle-income countries?

In these settings, there are frequently many intermediary funders, which creates additional uncertainty about the size and growth of a market. Coupled with this uncertainty, these markets are typically characterized by low profit margins and high-volume needs, so the economics have to line up just right in order to support development and production and ensure sustainability. Continue reading »

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 »