Partnering with the private sector

April 8, 2011 by PATH

To improve the health of mothers and children, harness each partner's strengths

PATH's Hugh Chang described our work on health technologies and meningitis vaccine as examples of successful public-private partnerships. Photo: Wilson Center/David Hawxhurst.

Private-sector firms often are skilled at developing technologies and taking them to scale—attributes that make them valuable partners in creating tools to improve health for women and children.

On March 22, representatives from the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and the US government met to discuss the creation and delivery of innovative nutrition and health technologies for women and children. The panel discussion, moderated by Kari Stoever, senior advisor for global advocacy with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, was sponsored by PATH and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Global Health Initiative as part of the center’s maternal health policy series.

The private sector perspective

Laura McLaughlin, an environmental engineer with outdoor products manufacturer Cascade Designs, Inc., talked about her company’s work with PATH to adapt the Smart Electrochlorinator 200 for the developing world. Using a 12-volt battery and salt, the electrochlorinator produces a solution that disinfects water. Each batch of solution can treat 200 liters of drinking water. The Smart Electrochlorinator 200 has the potential to greatly improve access to safe water in impoverished areas that lack municipal water treatment systems.

McLaughlin praised the public-private partnership between PATH and Cascade Designs, noting that both organizations brought distinct yet complementary strengths to the project. PATH had a firm understanding of the issues surrounding safe water and was able to tap its strong connections in the field. Cascade Designs contributed its expertise in efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and meeting market demand. PATH and Cascade Designs are working now to identify funding options so they can continue to support communities that need safe water.

Partners, private and otherwise

Hugh Chang, director of special initiatives at PATH, spoke about the organization’s experience with public-private partnerships, notably PATH’s 25-year relationship with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and private-sector partners through the HealthTech program. The partnership has helped PATH develop several technologies, including the SoloShot™ syringe, vaccine vial monitors, and theUniject™ injection system. USAID supplied funding for these technologies, which were then licensed to private sector companies.

Chang also spoke of the Meningitis Vaccine Project’s partnership with an Indian vaccine manufacturer as a model for working with private-sector partners in the developing world to develop a lifesaving intervention at an affordable price.

Strategies to improve health

Laura Birx, senior food security and nutrition specialist at USAID, discussed one of the agency’s guiding priorities—innovation—and how it contributes to ensuring that advances in research reach mothers and children. Birx said USAID evaluates health technologies according to:

  • Affordability.
  • Cultural appropriateness.
  • Gender sensitivity.
  • Ease-of-use.
  • Durability.
  • Responsiveness to a development challenge.
  • Ability to expand to lifesaving health interventions.

Birx highlighted a tool—the nevirapine pouch—developed by PATH, USAID, and private-sector partner Boehringer Ingelheim to help prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child. The pouch, which contains a dose of anti-retroviral medication, is available free to countries taking part in the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

About the maternal health policy series

The reproductive and maternal health community is at a critical point, drawing increased attention and funding, but still confronting more than 350,000 deaths each year and a high unmet need for family planning. The policy dialogue series seeks to galvanize the community by focusing on important issues within the maternal health community.

The Wilson Center’s Global Health Initiative is pleased to present this series with its co-conveners, the Maternal Health Task Force and the United Nations Population Fund, and is grateful to USAID’s Bureau for Global Health for further technical assistance.

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