March 26, 2014 |

Seven lessons for smarter interventions

What makes for a good buy in global health? Panelists at an event cosponsored by PATH tell all.
Woman seated on stage with three men speaks.
Amie Batson, PATH’s chief strategy officer, makes a point during a panel discussion with, from left, Raj Kumar of Devex, Jim Cunningham of Merck Research Labs, and Mark Grabowsky of UNSEO. Photo: PATH/Jean-Pierre Leguillou.

When singer, songwriter, and actress Mandy Moore calls global health “pretty cool,” you know the topic is no longer the sole province of policy wonks and science geeks.

Moore’s Tweet came during Best Buys in Global Health, a set of panel discussions we organized last week along with our partners PSI and Devex. We took as our starting point a survey of a thousand experts on future trends in global health, but we quickly discovered much broader interest in the topic. Our Twitter hashtag #bestbuys4GH, for example, trended nationally in the United States—thanks to Mandy and hundreds of you.

You can watch the entire event here:

What constitutes a best buy in global health? Our panelists discuss.

What did we learn?

It’s exciting to see this growing interest in global health and equity—we might even call our field hot right now. One thing that’s cooled, however, is growth of traditional donor budgets dedicated to health innovation. That’s why, our panelists agreed, it’s more important than ever to ensure our ideas to improve health not only work, but also are affordable and accessible for the people who will use them.

With that in mind, here are seven lessons we learned last week about what makes a sound investment in global health:

1. Best buys have three traits in common. Best buys in global health are efficient. They can be delivered in rugged settings. And they’re affordable for people in the regions where they’ll be used.

2. Public health impact comes in many guises. For example, PATH has helped develop hundreds of technologies that include tangible products like vaccines and drugs as well as innovative improvements to systems, such as delivery methods and data tracking.

3. Strengthening health systems and building capacity in the countries where work will be done are especially valuable buys. Impact often comes from investing in local people and systems. This not only develops the ability of local people to manage health care in their communities, it also helps increase understanding of and demand for the next innovation.

4. Partnerships, particularly with the private sector, are crucial to success. In many parts of the world, people receive care from both the public and private sector—sometimes mainly from the private sector. It’s crucial to include all sectors when we discuss strengthening health systems.

5. We need better diagnostic tools now. Local health workers need more and better tools to quickly and accurately diagnose diseases and conditions, the first step to successful treatment and eventual prevention.

6. Smart and simple is the key. Innovations, like the Sayana® Press injectable contraceptive, that are simple and easy to use don’t always require highly trained personnel, making them more accessible.

7. The platform approach works. The platform approach focuses on return and value of an investment rather than micromanagement of process. Using the platform approach instead of investing in individual projects will have a greater public health impact.

The conversation is far from over and you can be a part of it. Tweet what you think to @PATHtweets with the hashtag #BestBuys4GH.

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  • Lippi Doshi is a communications and digital advocacy officer at PATH.