March 28, 2018    Follow us on Twitter   View our videos on YouTube
Women's History Month 
Highlighting the Achievements of Women   

Janet is a trained traditional birth attendant, in Liberia, and is one of the many who has undergone training with USAID. Photo: USAID Publications

March is Women's History Month, and this year, we're turning our spotlight on women who are working to improve access to and quality of maternal and newborn health services in rural areas. Specifically, we're taking a closer look at Liberia, where USAID has trained over 900 health workers in over 70 facilities across three counties  ---   including Grand Bassa  ---  since 2015. Last year, in just three months, skilled birth attendants assisted in over 3,000 deliveries, with more women in Liberia stepping up every day to receive training from USAID in an effort to give back to their communities and save valuable lives.

Let's take a moment to read  the stories of Janet, Jestina, Josephine, Beatrice and Evelyn ---  five Liberian women working to support the cause of reducing maternal and newborn mortality in their home country.

SL@B Aims to Scale Up Global Health Innovations
with Two New Awards Totaling up to $13M
An innovator team maps their strategy to scale during an Xcelerator workshop. The support provided to SL@B innovators helps them towards making a sustainable impact. Photo: USAID  
Saving Lives at Birth is working to increase its investment in global health innovations through its recently launched Acceleration program with Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University and VentureWell.  

With plans to receive $10.5M over the course of the next three years, the two organizations in conjunction with a consortium of five other implementation partners: We Scale Impact, Villgro Kenya, Open Capital Advisors, Villgro India, and VIA Global Health, will help accelerate the scale and impact of Saving Lives at Birth innovations by providing tailored support in the development of their business models and delivery planning.  

"Even the most promising innovations can face challenges in development, introduction, and scaling," says David Milestone, Acting Director of the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact at USAID. "We are incredibly excited to partner with Duke and VentureWell ---   and their robust consortium of partners ---   to provide catalytic tailored support to our Saving Lives at Birth innovators and progress them towards sustainable, equitable impact."

The Duke Global Health Innovation Center, Duke Global Health Institute's Evidence Lab, and Duke Center for International Development will also receive $2.8 million over the course of the next three years to evaluate the impact of the Saving Lives at Birth program.

VentureWell's Innovator Insights Series documents lessons learned by seasoned entrepreneurs to help illuminate the path for tomorrow's innovators. Click here to read the final installment in the series, which takes a close look at the importance of strategy development and highlights the experiences of several SL@B innovators, including  Katie Clifford of PharmaChk, Donna Brezinski of Little Sparrows Technologies, José Nuño of Unima, Ibrahim Mohedas of SubQ Assist, and Katie Kirsch of Sisu Global Health. "A key aspect of strategy development is challenging assumptions about your idea, target market, even innovation design," said Cara Barnes, VentureWell program officer and Xcelerator program coach. "In the early stages, it's important for innovators to constantly question ideas and assumptions. Always assume you're wrong until proven otherwise. Continual questioning, evaluating, and learning will ultimately lead to a more solid strategy for your innovation and business."

WHO Issues New Global Care Guidelines for Childbirth 
A mother and her newborn baby at the Maternal and Child Health Training Institute for medically needy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: UN Photo/Kibae Park
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new guidelines detailing updated global care standards for childbirth with the goal of reducing usage of needless and/or potentially harmful routine clinical and medical interventions, both throughout and immediately following delivery. According to WHO, health practitioners have increased the use of interventions over the past 20 years that were previously only used to avoid risk or treat complications, such as oxytocin infusion to speed up labour. Studies show that a substantial proportion of healthy pregnant women worldwide undergo at least one clinical intervention during labour and birth.

Built on 56 evidence-based recommendations, the new guidelines include having a companion of choice present during both labor and childbirth, ensuring respectful care and good communication between women and health providers, and maintaining privacy and confidentiality. The guidelines also stipulate a need for allowing women to make decisions about their pain management, labor and birth positions and natural urge to push, among other needs.

GE's healthymagination Mother and Child Program
Graduates New Cohort of Social Entrepreneurs 
Katherine Kirsch (CMO), Carolyn Yarina (CEO), and Gillian Henker (CTO) of Sisu Global Health are part of the 11 social entrepreneurs to have completed the program. Photo: Sisu Global Health 
GE ---  in collaboration with Santa Clara University's Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship ---  will graduate 11 social entrepreneurs who have completed a training and mentorship program designed to further the acceleration of maternal and/or child health outcomes in Africa. The GE's healthymagination Mother and Child Programme builds upon the success of the first group of entrepreneurs in 2016, each of which has reported a sizeable impact on their business as a result of the program. The entrepreneurs selected for the second cohort attended a three-day workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, and participated in a  follow-up, six-month online accelerator program-including in-depth mentorship from Silicon Valley-based executives and local GE business leaders.

The program is designed to assist entrepreneurs operating in the healthcare space in acquiring business fundamentals that should help them build and grow their impact globally. Both the accelerator and mentorship programs culminate in an investor showcase event, during which the finalists will pitch their respective enterprises to an audience of potential investors and supporters. The list of recognized social enterprises includes two SL@B innovators ---   Sisu Global Health and SubQ Assist ---  as well as 2017 Finalist Neopenda.

Bangladesh Makes Major Strides in Cutting Newborn Mortality Rates
A newborn child in Bangladesh. Photo: Karen Kasmauski / Getty Images
In a recently published report by UNICEF documenting the alarmingly high death rate of newborns worldwide, Bangladesh is showing promising signs of progress. The country has succeeded in reducing its newborn mortality rate from 1,000 live births in 1990 to 20.1 per 1,000 today ---  a rate of 1 death in every 50 births. To put things into perspective: In 1990, 241,000 newborns in Bangladesh died within their first month of being alive. By 2016 that figure had been reduced to 62,000 newborns. While there is still much work to be done, it is an impressive advancement considering the fact that neighboring Pakistan is the country with the worst survival rate in the world with 1 in every 22 newborns dying.

Bangladesh is one of only a few countries that has made significant strides in the direction of reduced maternal and child mortality rates. According to experts in country, a key factor in the progress made was reducing the share of births that were taking place in homes and increasing the number of births taking place in healthcare facilities. In order to continue the momentum of progress, a greater focus on preventing and treating challenges associated with premature birth is needed as it is currently  the number one cause of newborn deaths in Bangladesh, responsible for a third of them in 2015.

Tetanus a "Silent Killer" for Mothers and Newborns in South Sudan 
Women in South Sudan are now able to see the benefits of the tetanus vaccine Photo: Medair South Sudan
UNICEF and its partners are currently working to immunize all women of childbearing age in South Sudan against tetanus, a preventable disease that kills nearly all affected children in its wake. Infection often stems from the fact that 91% of pregnant women in South Sudan deliver in their homes without access to skilled birth attendants. In many cases traditional practices, such as rubbing animal dung on the umbilical cord to speed up the drying process, can also cause newborns to contract tetanus. Furthermore, only 5% of maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) cases are reported, which typically kills within days, especially in unsanitary conditions.

Despite numerous challenges of access due to persisting insecurity in the country, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health have trained 201 vaccinators and employed them across Western Bahr El Ghazal enabling the third round of UNICEF's MNT campaign in 2017 to reach at least 54% of women in the region. As of 2017, campaigns by UNICEF and partners have ensured at least 48% of all women of childbearing age in the region have received at least the first dose of tetanus vaccine.

Project Syndicate Podcast 
Why are tens of thousands of mothers and newborns dying each year from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth?

Listen to the full version of a recent episode of Project Syndicate's Editors' Podcast below, featuring a conversation on this pressing question. Atul Gawande, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Executive Director of Ariadne Labs, interviews Katherine Semrau, an epidemiologist who leads the Better Birth program at Ariadne Labs.

SL@B Round 7 Innovator Awards: Get to Know the Nominees
SL@B nominated 15 finalists for awards from over 550 applications for the 2017 Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge. For the next several months, the SL@B Grand Challenge Digest will highlight one new innovator from our portfolio. Learn more about one of these nominees below:

Sisu Global Health (Baltimore, MD, USA)

Life-saving surgery often cannot be scheduled if there is no access to blood, making this a critical gap in patient care-particularly impacting mothers suffering from ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Autotransfusion, a standard practice in the United States, recycles a person's own blood in cases of significant blood loss. Autotransfusion can also aid in cases of large internal bleeds where donor blood is scarce. However this technology is too costly for many low-income countries and instead, a simple, manual method using a soup ladle and gauze is often used across Sub-Saharan Africa, which is unsafe for both the patient and clinician.

Sisu Global Health's Hemafuse Autologous Transfusion Device provides access to blood in cases of internal bleeding and is a safer, faster and more accessible alternative to manual methods. Sisu will establish the impact and limitations of Hemafuse for ruptured ectopic pregnancy and other trauma, as well as how to effectively train users, across several countries.

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