Innovative partnership connects kids, vaccine in Laos

A pair of hands holding a small photograph of a boy.

A Laotian father holds a photograph of his eldest son, who died of Japanese encephalitis at age 13. Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Guest contributor Monica Graham is a communications officer with our Vaccine Access and Delivery Program.

Thanks to an innovative partnership between Microsoft employees and PATH, thousands of children in Laos no longer face the possibility of severe, lifelong brain injury or even death from Japanese encephalitis (JE). Earlier this month they were vaccinated against the disease—the single most effective method of prevention.

PATH and our partners have been working for more than a decade to identify and accelerate the delivery of an affordable JE vaccine with the power to protect millions of children. In Laos, they needed a way to get the vaccine from its manufacturer in China to the children in their villages. Microsoft and its employees stepped forward with a creative campaign that let employees who took part in a health screening designate a donation toward providing the vaccinations in Laos. Their support helped pay for transporting the vaccine.

Two weeks ago, I watched as the first children gathered for vaccinations at a primary school in Xiangkhouang Province, and followed along as the campaign moved from village to village and district to district. Here is some of what I saw:

A large crowd of schoolchildren walks through white awnings. A banner behind them advertises a vaccination campaign.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

On the first morning of the Japanese encephalitis vaccination campaign in Xiangkhouang Province, children gathered at the Sibounheuang primary school to get their shots. More than 500 children received protection from  life-threatening infection at the campaign launch.

A schoolgirl sits in a white plastic chair as a health worker administers vaccine in the girl's arm.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Orladee, a nurse at the Pek district health center in Xiangkhouang, spent her day administering vaccines to the schoolchildren.

Man drives motorbike on a dirt road. A woman on the back of the motorbike holds a cold storage box.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

In order to reach rural villages, the vaccine must be transported in cold storage boxes by motorbike.

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

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Wa Meng, a father who lost his eldest son to Japanese encephalitis, made sure the rest of his family received protection when the vaccination campaign came to his village of Khonkandone.

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Cervical cancer vaccines: will our best hopes be realized?

Guest contributor Vivien Tsu is director of PATH’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Project and associate director of our Reproductive Health Program.

Portrait of Vivien Tsu.

Vivien Tsu. Photo: PATH/Doune Porter.

Our worst fear back in 2006—when the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer finally came to market at a whopping $120 per dose—was that the girls who most needed it would be the ones least likely to get it.

More than 85 percent of cervical cancer cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa and Asia. Those same countries find it difficult to offer screening services, like Pap smears and HPV tests, that have nearly eliminated cervical cancer in wealthy countries. How would these countries ever be able to afford an expensive vaccine? Furthermore, could immunization programs geared to vaccinating babies effectively reach young adolescent girls? And would parents’ concern about cervical cancer caused by HPV override their hesitation to mention a sexually transmitted infection to their young daughters?

Easing the way for immunization

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

Schoolgirls in Uganda line up after receiving HPV vaccine. PATH/Robin Biellik.

The GAVI Alliance, an international organization that helps low-resource countries introduce needed new vaccines, greatly eased the first problem when they began offering HPV vaccine in 2012. Using the power of bulk purchasing, GAVI and UNICEF worked together to get the vaccine at a lower price. GAVI offered it to qualified countries for 20 cents a dose—and sometimes for free.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking work by PATH to understand cultural issues and to demonstrate and evaluate strategies for delivering the vaccine helped answer the other questions. Yes, the countries could reach the right girls and yes, once they understood the issue, parents would flock to protect their daughters against a deadly cancer. Continue reading »

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New infographic: 9 ways to improve child survival

Drawing of man and woman gazing adoringly at newborn held by woman.

Drawing of doctor with stethoscope examining pregnant woman on a table while man looks proudly on.

Obstetric care: 1.4 million deaths among mothers and newborns and stillbirths could be prevented each year by providing high-quality care during labor and delivery at a cost of less than $1 per person in the general population. Illustration: PATH.

Too often, proper care and lifesaving health tools and innovations are not within reach for women and newborns in low- and middle-income countries. While great progress has been made to improve child health across the globe, one area that continues to lag behind is newborn survival.

Today, newborn deaths make up a growing proportion of under-five mortality: 44 percent of all deaths among children younger than five years old happen during the first 28 days of life.

Yet, the majority of maternal and newborn deaths can be prevented with the delivery of existing interventions across the reproductive, maternal, and newborn health continuum of care.

Drawing of beaming man and woman, woman holding a newborn.

Foundation for the future: Healthy mothers and newborns lay the foundation for healthy families and communities. Taking simple steps to support maternal and newborn survival is a cost-effective way to ensure babies can grow into healthy children and mothers live to celebrate their children’s birthdays. Illustration: PATH.

We’ve created an infographic to serve as an easy-to-understand advocacy tool to show why US investments in the reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child continuum of care will help end preventable newborn deaths. Download the full-size infographic (1.7 MB PDF).

Preventable maternal and newborn deaths can be stopped. Policymakers, donors, and the global community can help through sustained investments that support evidence-based health programming and funding for research and development to advance and deliver priority health innovations.

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Here’s how smart information systems save lives

A man and a woman sit before laptop computers in an office setting.

When a digital health technology comes along that has the strength, versatility, and functional chops to break through barriers, it does a lot more than make our jobs easier—it saves lives. Photo: PATH.

Guest contributor Laura Anderson is an editor at PATH.

PATH’s work to improve health for women and children worldwide takes us to some challenging places. This includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where a lack of infrastructure, security, and well-functioning health systems adds complexity to even the most powerful efforts.

So when a digital health technology comes along that has the strength, versatility, and functional chops to break through barriers, it does a lot more than make our jobs easier—it saves lives.

A data management challenge

Here’s how. In 2012, PATH was leading a consortium of partners to intercept the devastating trajectory of HIV and AIDS in the DRC. With the help of more than a hundred local groups, the Integrated HIV/AIDS Project (ProVIC) was improving care and services, giving communities new tools to combat disease, and strengthening the country’s health systems.

Yet a lack of data on these efforts was quickly growing from a weak link to a critical gap. How many patients were being treated? Had they returned to clinics for lifesaving follow-up care? Were pregnant women with HIV giving birth in facilities equipped to lower their babies’ risk of infection—and if not, what was keeping them away? Facing urgent need, our partners made do with the data they could gather, but it wasn’t always enough. Continue reading »

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Social entrepreneurs: here are two rules to ensure impact

A smiling health worker reaches for three vials of vaccine.

Vaccine vial monitors (the purple circles shown on these vaccine vials)—developed by PATH, the World Health Organization, and Temptime—show when the vaccine has spoiled due to heat. Photo: PATH/Umit Kartogulu.

“Everyone talks about cross-sector partnerships, but what does it really take to effectively solve global problems and have a viable business?” asks PATH president and CEO Steve Davis on the Skoll World Forum website.

Portrait of Steve Davis.

Steve Davis. Photo: Auston James.

In advance of his participation at this week’s 11th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England, Davis wrote about two ways even the smallest entrepreneurs can make a big impact on pressing global health issues through partnership:

  • Know what’s in it for you and what’s in it for your partner.
  • Think big even when you’re small.

From PATH’s work on the vaccine vial monitor—the “world’s smartest sticker”—to a mobile phone–based sensor that can monitor safe pasteurization of breast milk, we rely on partnerships to get lifesaving solutions into people’s hands. Social entrepreneurs can tap into the expertise of PATH and other organizations to overcome product development hurdles, grow their markets, and create social good.

As Davis points out, “If you’re smart, creative, and eager, there is plenty of room at the table to turn great ideas into tremendous lifesaving solutions.”

To read the full commentary, see the Skoll World Forum website.

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A “woman of courage” reflects on a career in global health

Woman wearing purple sash with text reading "Women of Courage" stands next to smiling man.

Dr. Jacqueline Sherris and PATH cofounder Gordon Perkin at the University of Washington Women’s Center’s Women of Courage awards. Photo: University of Washington Women’s Center/Alan Abramowitz.

This month, Dr. Jacqueline Sherris, our vice president for public health impact, will leave PATH to start a global health consulting business. Jackie is internationally recognized for her expertise in global health and known as a passionate advocate for women’s and children’s health. Michele Burns, PATH’s content director and one of Jackie’s early hires, asked Jackie to reflect on the evolution of global health since she joined PATH in 1988.

Q. I understand you were named a “Woman of Courage” by the University of Washington Women’s Center recently. Congratulations!

A. Thanks. It was an honor to receive that award.

Q. Given the stature of previous honorees—such as Senator Patty Murray and former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire—this is a tremendous testament to your achievements. As you were receiving the award, which of your accomplishments stood out as the most important?

A. At PATH, I’ve been most proud of my ability to channel the tremendous capacity, skill, and knowledge we have across the organization and bring it to bear on critical global health problems. Because I have a history with the organization, I’ve been able to mobilize my networks and experience across PATH to help us move big projects forward. And it’s been so exciting to see long-term projects reach big successes, whether they’re addressing meningitis, cervical cancer, Japanese encephalitis, or HIV in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’m also proud of the people I’ve hired. I’ve been directly involved in hiring and/or mentoring a number of PATH’s current program and project leaders. If there’s a legacy I have at PATH, they’re it! Continue reading »

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New tools or existing technologies?

A young boy smiles for the camera. He is flanked by a younger girl and boy.

Should we develop new tools or expand the use of the ones we already have? How about both? Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Guest contributors Claire Wingfield, product development policy officer, and Elesha Kingshott, senior policy and advocacy associate, are members of our Advocacy and Public Policy team.

Portrait of Claire Wingfield.

Claire Wingfield. Photo: PATH.

As global health advocates, we know that our messages can sometimes seem at odds. After all, one of us may be pointing out that millions of children could be saved every year through the use of simple, affordable interventions—tools that already exist. Meanwhile, the other may insist that to save children’s lives it’s essential to develop new health innovations.

Portrait of Elesha Kingshott.

Elesha Kingshott. Photo: PATH.

Who’s right? Should we expand the use of existing technologies, or develop new ones?

A big job needs a big toolbox

Some 6.6 million children will die this year before they reach their fifth birthday, and more than half of their deaths could be prevented with simple, affordable interventions that already exist. It’s critical that governments fund maternal and child health programs to ensure children in low- and middle-income countries have access to proven interventions that can save them from diseases and conditions that largely have been addressed in high-income countries.

At the same time, existing technologies, as successful as they are, don’t address every illness, and not all are suitable for low-income countries. That’s why we also call for robust investments in research and development to create new health innovations. These new tools have the potential to save children from illnesses that cannot be prevented and treated with today’s technologies. Continue reading »

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It’s not our fault your train is late

Young man gazes at a mobile phone in his hand. Text reads, "Let's connect all the PATHs. #allthePATHS.

Photo: Flickr/Simone Dall’Angelo.

PATH drives transformative innovation to save lives. But we don’t drive trains.

So when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s PATH commuter trains are delayed and you miss your date for pizza, tweeting at us @PATHtweets won’t help. Try @PATHtrain instead.

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Global vaccination efforts must better engage parents and caregivers

A young woman carries a tray with bags of ice on her head as she walks down a line of people.

Getting vaccinated isn’t always a consumer-friendly process. Here, a vendor sells ice and drinks to people in line for meningitis vaccine. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Guest contributor Andy Seale is director of advocacy and communications for vaccine implementation at PATH. This post originally ran in The Guardian’s Global Development Professionals Network partner zone.

PATH’s Geneva office has a striking view over the busy airport that helps ensure this modest-sized Swiss city maintains its status as a leading hub for international finance, global health, and diplomacy.

Looking out from our meeting rooms onto the well-maintained runway, I can’t help but admire the thinking, planning, and investment that goes into airport systems. Linking air traffic control to flight scheduling, separating passengers from baggage and baggage from cargo, and managing security and safety are just a few of the challenges that must be overcome to make airports work.

Serving the vaccine consumer

In our work to ensure all children in the developing world receive lifesaving vaccines, we often have discussions with our partners and funders about how best to make the systems that support vaccination smarter. Traditionally, that has meant focusing on systems that develop safe and effective vaccines and ensure they reach children who need them.

Yet while we have effectively mobilized around these critical supply and infrastructure needs, there has been little comparable investment in the systems that support the “demand side” of vaccination. Continue reading »

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Seven lessons for smarter interventions

Guest contributor Lippi Doshi is multimedia advocacy coordinator at PATH.

Woman seated on stage with three men speaks.

Amie Batson, PATH’s chief strategy officer, makes a point during a panel discussion with, from left, Raj Kumar of Devex, Jim Cunningham of Merck Research Labs, and Mark Grabowsky of UNSEO. Photo: PATH/Jean-Pierre Leguillou.

When singer, songwriter, and actress Mandy Moore calls global health “pretty cool,” you know the topic is no longer the sole province of policy wonks and science geeks.

Moore’s Tweet came during Best Buys in Global Health, a set of panel discussions we organized last week along with our partners PSI and Devex. We took as our starting point a survey of a thousand experts on future trends in global health, but we quickly discovered much broader interest in the topic. Our Twitter hashtag #bestbuys4GH, for example, trended nationally in the United States—thanks to Mandy and hundreds of you. Continue reading »

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