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“Communities can play a key role in developing reproductive health technologies” was the take-home message at a recent gathering of global health professionals convened by PATH.

Nearly 30 reproductive health professionals joined us in our DC office on January 22, 2008, for a conversation about engaging communities in reproductive health solutions. The talk was the first in our new breakfast series, Conversations in Global Health—a quarterly forum for global health professionals to discuss timely issues and challenges.

Three of our staff experts described challenges and the lessons they learned in engaging communities in the development and introduction of new reproductive health technologies.

Engaging communities in clinical trials

It’s critical to engage local communities in research on reproductive health technology, said Anna Forbes, deputy director of the Global Campaign for Microbicides. Using microbicide research in Africa as a case study, she highlighted the campaign’s work to promote community involvement in clinical trials. Those efforts raised awareness among community-based organizations and helped the campaign work effectively with researchers and trial site staff, as well as demonstrate effective community involvement to donors.

Users as co-designers of products

Incorporating user perspectives into the actual product development is essential, explained Trish Coffey, a program officer for PATH’s technology solutions. She described how PATH incorporated user perspectives when developing the PATH women’s condom and one-size-fits-most SILCS diaphragm, including them as co-designers to ensure the products would meet their needs. Feedback from users indicates that the new condom and diaphragm are easy to use and acceptable to both women and their male partners.

Working locally to introduce new technologies

Working closely with local community groups is a critical aspect of ensuring reproductive health technologies, once developed, reach those who need them most, according to Deborah Armbruster, director of PATH’s Prevention of Postpartum Hemorrhage Initiative. Armbruster described successful efforts to train community-based health workers in Mali to introduce oxytocin in Uniject™ devices to prevent maternal deaths among women giving childbirth in their homes.

More on Conversations in Global Health

Rachel Wilson, PATH’s director of policy and advocacy, moderated the forum, where participants asked questions and shared their own lessons.

PATH’s Conversations in Global Health series is held in Washington, DC, and open to all members of the global health community. To learn about future Conversations in Global Health, please emaildcevents@path.org.

More about PATH’s reproductive health initiatives and technologies

Posted February 4, 2008.