Increasing Access to Safe Oxygen

Related program: Market Dynamics

Oxygen therapy is an essential part of ending preventable deaths among newborns, children, and adults globally.

It is one of the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) 30 essential medicines contributing to treatment across age groups for a wide range of conditions, including severe pneumonia, newborn conditions, and obstetric emergencies. Oxygen therapy can also be critical for patients with noncommunicable diseases, such as asthma and heart failure, and during pandemic disease outbreaks.

Despite the urgent need, however, reliable access to oxygen, paired with pulse oximetry, remains inadequate across many health facilities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) for many reasons, including production and distribution shortages and inappropriate delivery to patients. Limited data, perceptions about costs, poor understanding of the impact on health outcomes, and the complexity of integration and maintenance across the health system all contribute to lack of prioritization of oxygen at the national and subnational levels.

Oxygen resources: COVID-19 and beyond

Timely and robust planning for reliable oxygen delivery is needed more than ever - to protect and save lives. This page brings together resources to support countries in planning and executing a respiratory care strategy in the context of COVID-19 and beyond the pandemic.

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PATH is improving access to oxygen on multiple fronts that span advocacy and policy, market dynamics, and biomedical engineering. We work in close collaboration with country and industry partners, as well as global organizations and international agencies. Our integrated approach includes steps to understand, support, innovate, advocate, and convene to ensure that everyone has access to this essential treatment.


the multifaceted challenges preventing reliable access to oxygen and pulse oximetry.


country decision-makers in designing and implementing thoughtful solutions.

Scaling up access to oxygen is one of the most effective and critical actions decision-makers can take to improve health outcomes and save lives. PATH, in partnership with stakeholders in India, Kenya, Senegal, and Malawi, developed The Oxygen Delivery Toolkit, which provides resources to help stakeholders, decision-makers, and implementers understand, plan, and manage oxygen delivery scale-up and help advocates communicate the need for oxygen and reliable access to this essential treatment.



the technologies and processes required to rapidly scale reliable access to oxygen and pulse oximetry in LMICs.

We work to accelerate global progress against pneumonia and other respiratory challenges by harnessing an integrated array of cost-effective solutions that can target diseases from multiple angles, including vaccines, access to appropriate diagnostic tools, and treatments. Read more about how we are ushering in a new era of pneumonia control.

We develop important technology innovations, such as a low-cost bubble continuous positive airway pressure (bCPAP) kit and an oxygen blender. bCPAP can provide infants with the air pressure needed to support their breathing, and when combined with an oxygen blender, it can deliver critically needed oxygen at appropriate, safe concentrations. These interventions can mean the difference between life and death and between healthy infant development and lifelong neurological damage or blindness.

In addition to technical innovations, we work to establish system innovations. We have evaluated the concept of providing oxygen as a public utility and developed it as an innovative model for increasing access to oxygen in LMICs, which you can read more about in the resource list below.



for change using new and existing evidence, priority calls to action, and future investments.

We are implementing a comprehensive advocacy approach to increase access to oxygen in LMICs, including:

  • Supporting normative policy change and implementation by WHO and national governments. In 2017 we led the effort to list oxygen in the WHO Essential Medicines Lists (EML) for adults and EML for Children (EMLc). The updated EML/EMLc now specify oxygen as a treatment for hypoxemia, resolving any ambiguity about its role as an essential medicine.
  • Developing a suite of evidence-based materials to help advocates and policymakers drive change at the national and subnational levels. We applied our technical advocacy approach to develop Oxygen Is Essential: A Policy and Advocacy Primer. This primer equips advocates and decision-makers with the essential information and guidance to support their efforts to strengthen oxygen delivery systems.
  • Raising awareness about the importance of oxygen through advocacy campaigns and tools, such as the Markets Matter: Closing the Oxygen Gap campaign, HO2PE: Oxygen gives life campaign and the COVID-19 Oxygen Needs Tracker.
  • Working with global health donors to increase funding for medical oxygen and pulse oximetry scale-up around the world.



stakeholders and donors across government, industry, and nonprofit sectors to share and prioritize approaches.

In 2015, PATH convened a first-of-its-kind forum of industry representatives—nine oxygen concentrator manufacturers and three pulse oximeter manufacturers—to gauge interest in and challenges with doing business in low-resource settings. This meeting teed up broader industry engagement, including the 2017 A2O2: Accelerating Access to Oxygen convening. PATH brought together a large coalition of country decision-makers, industry representatives, global health partners, and financiers for the A2O2 convening. Over the course of the three-day meeting, stakeholders discussed barriers to reliable oxygen delivery systems, shared opportunities to address them, and agreed on a common path forward to improve access to safe oxygen delivery.


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