5 Best Buys for improved maternal health

By Jennifer James. Originally posted at MomBloggersForSocialGood.com.

What are the best buys for global health and development? During a two-hour conversation held at the Center for Global Development global health experts and practitioners discussed the best places to invest in global health and the best investments for global health dollars. Overall, health systems strengthening emerged as the biggest best buy in global health. When health systems are improved the costs for key heath interventions subsequently decreases.

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Partner insights: The best buys in global health

Guest contributor Amie Batson is chief strategy officer at PATH.

Later today, I’m joining a panel of international leaders, researchers, and health colleagues to dig deeply into a crucial question: which investments will help us save the lives of more women and children?

The event, organized by PATH, Devex, PSI, and partners, will introduce “Best Buys in Global Health,” a special issue of Impact magazine to be published today that invites you to explore the data, consider the options, and help us succeed. You’re also invited to watch our discussion live from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. EDT today, and to follow the conversation and pose questions to the panelists at #BestBuys4GH.

As I prepared for today’s event, I thought about some of my own top choices. The great return on investing in women, as I’ve written here before, stands out as an unquestionable best buy in my mind. So do a few others…

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Dr. Mitu Khurna’s story

(Image credit: Flickr user SalFalko by CC)

Editor’s note: Indrani Goradia, Founder of Indrani’s Light Foundation, just concluded a trip to India to visit PSI-India’s pilot projects to combat gender-based violence. These are her reflections (see part 1 and part 2)

I think most people would expect an educated woman in the country’s capital city to somehow be immune, or protected, to have the same basic rights of a modern woman.

In 2004, Mitu, a pediatrician, married an orthopedic surgeon. Shortly after her arranged marriage, her in-laws demanded a greater dowry from her parents – a new car, more jewelry and other possessions. Her parents could not give more, and as a result, Mitu suffered abuse at the hands of her mother-in-law – a practice all to common in India.

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Why do you buy a toilet? Why do you sell a toilet? How to build a market for sanitation

By Ashish Karamchandani, Founder, Monitor Inclusive Markets, Monitor Deloitte

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Lack of sanitation is a major problem. More than 1 billion people defecate in the open. Lack of access to hygienic sanitation is responsible for 2.7 million deaths every year.

The issue is acute in India. Some 67% of rural Indian households do not have toilets. Of all the people in the world who defecate in the open, 600 million live in India.

The Government of India recognizes this issue and has approved subsidies to increase rural sanitation coverage. However, these have not had the desired impact.

Bihar is one of the Indian states with the lowest toilet coverage (~18%). The Supporting Sustainable Sanitation Improvements project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is intended to address this problem. It facilitates the supply of toilets from the private sector in the rural parts of 8 target districts in Bihar state.

PSI is the lead grantee of this project. Monitor Inclusive Markets had a 6 person team work on an intensive 5 month initial Landscaping phase. In this phase, we followed a rigorous analytical process, studying the sanitation landscape in Bihar, and performed extensive customer research and value chain mapping, to develop private sector-based business models that could scale rural sanitation.

The findings were fascinating.

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Soap will Save Lives, Brands will Increase Use

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Brands might not sound like something that matters for global health. With the approaching Super Bowl, brands are thought of the things that come up with clever commercials to entertain and sell products.

However, that is exactly why they are important when it comes to behavior change, says Sami Singh, Global Brand Vice President for Unilever-Lifebouy. He argues that brands are what grab attention and get people to take action. For example, handwashing is a simple and important way to improve the health of everyone, especially children. Just like Coca Cola and Pepsi will compete to make their cola look cool, soaps should appeal to the everyday consumer.

Then, people will want to buy and use the soap. It is the brand that will help affect change. The soap matters a whole lot, but it has to literally get into the hands of people if it is to have an impact.

That is where brands can make a difference.

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These 13 Commodities can Save 6 Million Women and Children

Today, the global health organization PATH and other members of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities Advocacy Working Group launched an exciting new advocacy toolkit. In it are thirteen commodities and ten recommendations to improve global health.

Scaling Up Lifesaving Commodities for Women, Children, and Newborns, provides information about the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children (Commodities Commission), its 13 priority commodities, and examples of how its ten recommendations to improve access and availability are being applied globally and within countries.

In spite of the strong evidence showing their impact in saving lives, too often the 13 commodities are out of the reach of those individuals who need them. These medicines and health supplies cost just dollars, with the majority costing less than US$1 per dose. However, multiple barriers prevent people from accessing these commodities. The Commodities Commission report also outlines ten bold and innovative recommendations to catalyze changes in the way the 13 commodities are produced, distributed, and used, estimating that the effective implementation of the recommendations would result in saving the lives of six million women and children over five years.

The toolkit provides advocacy resources for utilizing the Commodities Commission platform to raise awareness and engage stakeholders in addressing commodity-related gaps in global and national plans, policies, and initiatives, as well as providing strategic input to advance the implementation of recommendations.

We know you are eager to know what are these thirteen commodities. Go here to read the full report. For those of you that are less patient, check out the infographic below:

 

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It Takes a Market to get Men to Use Condoms in Africa. Here's How.

What can be done to increase the use of condoms by men in African countries? PSI and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) teamed up over the past year to study and report on the state of play in six African countries. The results are out in six new case studies that will be presented during a  consultative meeting on the Total Market Approach that PSI and UNFPA are hosting, today and tomorrow.

During the meeting, participants will discuss the findings from the six case studies conducted in African countries. Then, representatives from ten organizations will discuss how they can work together to support the development and implementation of the Total Market Approach in national markets for male condoms and other family planning supplies.

The UNFPA sponsored case studies were carried out in the past 12 months with support from two independent researchers in Botswana, Lesotho, Mali, South Africa, Swaziland, and Uganda. All of the countries have large condom social marketing programs, are affected by HIV, and have high maternal morbidity and mortality relative to their economic development.

Content for the case studies was based on a review of the literature, seven key TMA metrics calculated from national-level data, and interviews with stakeholders. All case studies were subject to review by stakeholders, including Ministries of Health and non-governmental organizations in all six countries, UNFPA’s local and regional offices, UNFPA headquarters in New York City, PSI country and regional offices, and PSI’s headquarters in Washington DC.

Each case study describe the market for male condoms in each of the countries, and the roles of the public, social marketing, and commercial sectors in those markets.

The cases illustrate the universe of need for condoms, levels of use, socioeconomic equity among users, and the market presence of condoms for reproductive health and HIV prevention (dual protection).

They also propose a set of recommendations for improving the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of condom markets.

The studies aim to inform the development of appropriate, evidence-based decisions to increase condom use equitably and sustainably through actions undertaken in the public, socially marketed, and commercial sectors.

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Reflections on Recife and the Global Health Workforce: Metrics and Motivations

By Michael Bzdak; Executive Director, Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Corporate Contributions

The Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health has concluded and although the issue of human resources for health is enjoying an uptick of attention within the international community, it is clear that much more needs to be done to support and honor existing workers while at the same time attracting new entrants into the health workforce. And honor them we must. Without urgent attention, there will be a projected shortage of more than 12 million health workers by 2035.

Two themes came up a number of times throughout the forum, providing a consistent and hard-to- ignore drumbeat. First, it is apparent that in our collective quest to make sure that everyone has access to well-trained, competent and culturally-sensitive health workers, we have to improve our collection of reliable data and ensure that we have functional and reliable human resource databases in every region of the world. It is no surprise that GHWA and WHO recognize this as a key recommended action – and a number of organizations are stepping up to the plate with solutions to what has been a stubborn problem.

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Dear Ambassador Goosby: Thank You!

Ed note: The US Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Eric Goosby steps down today. PSI joins 34 organizations thanking Ambassador Goosby for his bold leadership.  

Dear Eric:

As members of the Global AIDS Policy Partnership who are committed to a robust and evidence-based U.S. response to the global AIDS pandemic, we would like to express our gratitude for your years of service leading the PEPFAR program. Under your leadership, PEPFAR has made unprecedented progress in expanding the reach of antiretroviral treatment, interventions to prevent vertical HIV transmission, medical male circumcision and other lifesaving services to millions in developing countries. From programs to respond to women and girls including gender-based violence to sound public health guidance to address the needs of men who have sex with men and injection drug users living with or at risk for HIV infection, your office has embraced an HIV response grounded in science and a human rights framework. Your recent guidance to PEPFAR field staff to ensure the inclusion of civil society representation in the country planning process represents an essential step in ensuring that country responses reflect community needs. We also thank you for your work on behalf of the Global Fund and your efforts to enhance the engagement of affected countries to respond to their own epidemics. Thanks to your leadership, the PEPFAR program is better positioned than ever before to help deliver on the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

You have garnered respect from both sides of the aisle in Congress. We applaud the effective relationships you have developed with White House staff and your willingness to seek our input on a range of issues. The PEPFAR Blueprint for an AIDS-free Generation will stand as an important part of your legacy.

We know this job has not been easy one. The interminable travel, the need to be responsive to numerous and disparate stakeholders, and the task of addressing huge unmet needs for services with dwindling resources are just a few of the many challenges you have faced. Your strategic, thoughtful and humane leadership in the face of these challenges has been appreciated.

We extend our best wishes to you in your future endeavors and thank you for leaving the PEPFAR program on solid footing to continue and ultimately to finish the critical, lifesaving work ahead.

Sincerely,

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Handwashing: The Power is in Your Hands

1395802_719755098051867_1473274820_nMillions of people around the world will celebrate the lifesaving impact of handwashing, tomorrow. Global Handwashing Day will mobilize youth in schools and adults in community spaces to practice handwashing with soap.

Celebrated annually, this year’s Global Handwashing Day is marked with the theme “The Power is in Your Hands.” The ability to reduce illness caused by poor hygiene lies in the hands of every person around the world. It is even more important for young children. Handwashing alone can cut into the 5,000 children that die every day from pneumonia and diarrhea.

It is for this reason that countless events will take place in over 100 countries on October 15 to celebrate  handwashing with soap. For example, the Pan-American Health Organizations (PAHO) in Latin America  and the Children’s Global Hygiene Foundation in Australia will both attempt to set Guinness World  Records for the most number of people washing their hands at the same time.

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Leaving Our Legacy

By Jennifer Abrevaya, Sr. Manager, Customer Feedback and Response at Merck

By the final week of our Fellowship assignment, it was hard to believe how quickly the time had flown.  In the time since my previous blog post, we created and refined our toolkit content, traveled back to Tanzania to pilot our work, made final changes based on the pilot, and were preparing to present the completed toolkit to the PSI home office staff.  It had been a whirlwind, but so rewarding to look at this amazing resource and see the volume and quality of work we were able to accomplish in such a short time.

Our PSI supervisor Mary refers to the toolkit “our legacy.”  Once this short assignment was done, and we went back to our regular jobs next week, PSI would be using our work for years and years to come.  It will be translated into several languages and made available to all 69 PSI platforms around the world.  Years from now, Representatives will still participate in our workshops to improve their customer interactions; Marketing Directors will be referring to our guides to make sure they create resources that are relevant and compelling; and Supervisors will be running their operations and coaching their teams more effectively.  The private sector expertise that we have at Merck will be applied in a nonprofit way, all in the name of improving the health of patients in need.

Even though this toolkit will be used for a long time, we were already able to see some immediate results.  For instance –in Tanzania, we conducted several  Advanced Communication workshops with the sales team, and after the meeting went out in the field to see how they were able to start incorporating their new skills into their customer conversations.  Every single representative used what they had learned in the workshops, and the already high-quality of the medical discussions compared to our first trip in May had improved even more.  Seeing such results just a day after the workshops, it was breathtaking to think about how this would be multiplied over the years, as more and more of PSI’s sales teams were coached on these new skills through our work.  And combined with even better visual resources and coaching, they will have the opportunity to save a lot of patient lives as they give providers the important medical information they need.

Often at Merck, we don’t often take the time to stop and enjoy the fruits of our labor…  we focus hard on our projects and tasks, and then move on as each box is checked.  We don’t always think about our work as a legacy that contributes long-term to the health of patients worldwide.  I’ve come back to Merck with this new mindset – thinking of how my contributions will have an impact on public health for years to come.

Our RTC Fellowship assignment was the experience of a lifetime.  Our team is so grateful to PSI for the opportunity, as well as the hospitality and inspiration that we were given every single day.  And we look forward to continuing our relationship with the organization – Merck gives each of us 40 hours per year of volunteer time, and we’ve already offered our hours to PSI so that we can continue to help care for Sara.

 

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Taking care of Sara

By Jennifer Abrevaya, Sr. Manager, Customer Feedback and Response at Merck

In our first days at PSI, our team worked to absorb as much information as we could.  Mary, our PSI project manager, put together a great onboarding that helped us learn about PSI’s work directly from their subject matter experts.  We spent the first two weeks learning about PSI’s products and services for family planning, safe water, malaria prevention, and much more…  all geared towards a woman we learned about named Sara.

In the world of Customer Experience (my main focus at Merck), a person such as Sara is a really powerful tool for connecting with your customer.   A persona is an archetype of one of an organization’s key customers that helps bring the customer to life – it takes you beyond basic demographic and purchasing data, and instead creates a vivid portrait that makes the archetype feel like a real person.  It helps in making customer-focused decisions, because you see the world through that customer’s eyes instead of your own.

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