Rachel Wilson is senior director for policy and advocacy at PATH.
Medicines, resuscitators, contraceptives—they’re all essential tools with the potential to save lives. But in developing countries, too often these commodities and others are in short supply or not available at all.
Earlier this summer, we told you how PATH has been contributing to a global initiative aimed at improving access to overlooked health supplies and reducing inequities in health. We’ve been sharing our experience in developing and delivering health technologies—such as our Woman’s Condom, oxytocin in the Uniject™ injection system, and neonatal resuscitators—with United Nations agencies and the governments of several developing countries, advising them on a set of recommendations to improve the quality of 13 essential health commodities and access to them.
This week, the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children released a report (998 KB PDF), which you can read on their website, that recognizes the challenges of getting supplies to those who need them. The report recommends ten ways to overcome these barriers. The solutions—which the Commission will prioritize, with some on a fast-track to implementation—range from establishing innovative financing mechanisms to streamlining regulatory systems.
A new phase and leadership role
While this step forward is promising, turning the recommendations into reality will require significant political support and increased engagement of global health advocates, national governments, and those who carry out health programs. To help, PATH will be bringing together experts to devise specific plans for implementing the Commission’s recommendations. We’re focusing on two types of recommendations: those that address product innovation for improving life-saving commodities and reaching more people and those that address the health commodity chlorhexidine, an antiseptic used to clean umbilical cords.
The experts we convene will be charged with determining how to best prioritize, fund, and carry out research and development to enhance life-saving commodities. They’ll identify the activities and the budgets needed to reach key milestones on the road to realizing the promise of today’s recommendations.
Plan for action
At PATH, we know this isn’t a simple task. For nearly 40 years, we’ve been developing health technologies that are not only effective and accessible, but that address the needs and the conditions of the people who will use them. We know what it takes to design, develop, and deliver tools meant for low-resource settings; how to integrate new technologies into existing programs and cultures; and how to overcome the obstacles that can block their way.
What it takes is hard work on the ground. But it also takes supportive policies, bold innovation, and informed prioritization. And ultimately, it takes the increased engagement of developing-country governments, whose participation is crucial to ensuring these global strategies align with national needs and priorities.
Leaders of the UN’s Every Woman Every Child movement predict that if we provide the 13 essential health commodities identified by the UN Commission, we can save 16 million women and children by 2015. By supporting the UN Commission throughout this process, we’re helping to overcome the systemic problems that have prevented women and children from reaching their full potential, despite the availability of effective and low-cost health solutions.
- Safeguarding pregnant women with essential medicines.
- Every Woman Every Child website.
- Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed website.
This blog post is published in collaboration with a campaign led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in support of Every Woman Every Child.