Panel Discussion Recap: “Reaching Women and Children with Innovative Technologies”
A panel discussion on ‘Reaching Women and Children with Innovation Technologies’ was held on Wednesday, July 21 in Washington DC, hosted by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), the Global Health Council and PATH. Panelists included Paul LaBarre, Technical Officer of the Technology Solutions Global Program at PATH; Edmund Rutta, Country Program Manager of Management Science for Health; Allen Wilcox, President of VillageReach; and Lily Kak, Senior Maternal and Newborn Health Advisor of USAID. The panel was moderated by Catherine Talor, from PATH.
The session was kicked off with an introduction of the significance of technological innovations in strengthening health systems and increasing access to health, by creating great changes from small investments.
Each panelist introduced novel technological products and projects that were being developed and implemented to improve maternal and neonatal/child health. Emphasis was made on the need to develop technological tools appropriate for disparate settings and populations. It was recognized that devices and technological advances widely utilized in developed nations may not be befitting in certain settings of developing nations. Mr. Paul LaBarre pointed out, for an example, how sophisticated devices such as pulse oximeters and neonatal incubators are not utilized in clinics in developing countries that are in possession of these devices, due to the lack of electricity or battery available to run these devices and, due to the fragility of these advanced devices which cannot be fixed, when damaged, due to the absence of skilled technicians or engineers.
Village Reach, a program profiled in CHMI’s database, addresses problems that arise from delivery system failures which result in a deficit of available drugs in remote areas. VillageReach has redesigned its distribution system, with the partnership of the Government, by which the delivery of drugs is monitored by field coordinators that visit the individual sites to confirm the availability of drugs in all sites and to monitor the quality and performance of each of the sites. Information such as inventory data and number of vaccines used is recorded using SMS, PDAs or computers allowing documented and measurable results.
Edmund Rutta spoke about Accredited Drug Dispensing Outlets (ADDO) -- another innovative public-private health delivery model profiled by CHMI. ADDO focuses on business skills training, knowledge-building and improving the storage infrastructures of dispensing outlets accredited by the Tanzanian Government with the goal of regulating the quality of the products dispensed in underserved areas. These dispensers have now integrated public health interventions focusing on maternal and child health and the Accredited Drug Dispensing Outlets have become a platform for increasing access to essential health services in rural areas. An added benefit of the program is that the training of shop owners resulted in more economic opportunities for rural women (40% of ADDO owners are women). Similar models of Public –Private Partnership are now being adopted by Uganda, Zambia, Liberia, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
The general consensus amongst the panelists centered on the importance of understanding the underlying economics of technological innovations and their role within health systems. To be effectively delivered and be utilized by the populations they are intended for, there needs to be a balanced approach: strengthening the system in addition to continuing innovation.