September 27, 2013 | The Editors

At the UN General Assembly, 10 ways to save lives

Two men and a woman watch a man gesturing to a blue and black garment.
Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, and UN General Assembly President John Ashe watch as PATH’s Steve Brooke demonstrates the nonpneumatic antishock garment. Photo: PATH/Brad Wilke.

At the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, leaders in global health have been meeting to measure progress on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, including saving the lives of mothers and babies. They’ve also been assessing how far we must go before all women and children, no matter the circumstances of their birth, have an equal chance at life and health.

Smiling woman holds twin infants on her lap, with text, '10 innovations to save lives now: read the feature.'.
Photo: PATH/Evelyn Hockstein.

Bill Gates was there to talk about the impact of innovation on global health, seated on a panel with other technology leaders including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. The prime minister of Norway—whose government is our partner—took part in the meetings along with other heads of state. Those with a passion to improve health for mothers and children, such as Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, took part in panels and addressed audiences at events, including ours.

PATH, which plays a key role in progress towards several of the Millennium Development Goals, has been an active participant in these UN conversations, as our CEO Steve Davis and other leaders from the organization engaged with the world’s leaders and decision-makers in considering how to scale up breakthrough innovations that can save millions of mothers and babies—right now.

Ten impactful innovations

Early in the week, PATH, along with partners including the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the MDG Health Alliance, and the United Nations Foundation, introduced a clear-sighted publication called Breakthrough Innovations That Can Save Women and Children Now. The publication introduces ten innovations—including several we’re working with partners to take to scale.

If a majority of these low-cost innovations are immediately brought to scale in low-resource countries, they could save 1.2 million mothers and children by the end of 2015—the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.

Affordable, accessible, lifesaving

“Many of these are not super high-end or complicated,” our CEO said as he toured displays of the innovations with leaders including Princess Sarah and UN General Assembly President John Ashe. “They’re innovations that are taking complex processes and making them simpler, making them affordable, and making them accessible for the poorest in the world. And that’s really exciting.”

The promising solutions on display this week included the nonpneumatic antishock garment, originally conceived by NASA for use in space, which can slow excessive bleeding after childbirth and stabilize a mother until she can reach emergency care. There was a program for health workers that provides tools and training to help babies take their first breaths, and a new and affordable formulation of a common antiseptic to prevent deadly infections from finding a way into infants through newly cut umbilical cords.

Ready and waiting

Each is on the verge of saving lives—if we make them widely available.

“What we have to do now is take these ten innovations, and we have to scale them up,” said Princess Sarah as she took a break from the exhibits. “If we can do that, we have the possibility to save and change and improve the lives of millions of women and newborns and children.”

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