In a conference room filled beyond capacity atop a New York hotel this week, attendees were tweeting like mad. Why? Because they were on board with this simple directive: innovation matters when it comes to transforming global health.
On September 24, the Financial Times and PATH hosted a high-level forum titled “Transformative Innovations for Health.” The event unveiled Innovation Countdown 2030. Led by PATH, the initiative is identifying and showcasing technologies and interventions with great promise to dramatically accelerate progress toward solving the world’s most urgent health issues. Participants received a copy of the initiative’s new publication Innovation Matters and were directed to the initiative’s website at www.ic2030.org.
Moderated by Financial Times editor Andrew Jack, the forum presented a diverse group of speakers including PATH CEO Steve Davis, maternal and newborn health advocate Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, Norway’s State Secretary Hans Brattskar, and Manu Prakash, a TED fellow and assistant professor at Stanford University. (You may have seen Dr. Prakash’s TED video on the 50-cent folding cardboard microscope.)
The crowd was engaged during the roundtable chat and presentation, asking bold questions, discussing opportunities, and lingering long past the event’s timeline. Amy MacIver, director of Communications at PATH, observed, “People stayed and talked, well after final call. It was one of the most diverse and engaged groups we’ve witnessed.”
How can we reach across sectors to “bend the curve?”
Topping the list of conversation points during the roundtable and forum was how to identify which high-potential innovations can accelerate dramatic improvements or “bend the curve.” In short, how do we disrupt the status quo, make lifesaving innovations “real,” and scale them more rapidly?
Dr. Prakash brought a synthesis of research, innovation, and political science to the table by identifying the links between health, education, energy, and funding. He requested global health partners quickly “take technologies into the field.” Oftentimes, successful processes happen at the frontline between trailblazers who are working on parallel projects. By recognizing all the variables at play, he suggested we could tap into unique processes and perhaps leap forward toward solutions.
“We can talk a lot about gadgets and about delivery, but there is a huge gap between those two places,” said PATH CEO Steve Davis. To narrow that gap, health care workers need to be trained to use innovative tools and technologies. Sometimes innovation isn’t a new gadget; it may be a new process to organize health systems or a novel way to encourage behavior change.
Another theme discussed during the forum was that health care workers need more support beyond the latest gadgets. They are the key component to getting the right technologies out there along with the tools they need. Dr. Adrian Thomas, vice president of Global Market Access at Global Commercial Strategy Operations and Global Public Health (GPH), touched on a partnership with PATH that intends to create diagnostics that will inform health workers what disease they’re dealing with before patients are taken to a health care facility.
What’s the world going to look like in 2030?
Christopher (Edge) Egerton-Warburton, fund manager for the Global Health Investment Fund and founding partner of Lion’s Head Global Partners, launched into the futurist’s perspective of innovation, positing on global health challenges in 15 years’ time. He believes health care leaders and partners need to line up capital to address the world of 2030. The community needs long-term vision to anticipate the challenges faced in a decade and a half.
Sharing thoughts in real time
As the night wound to an end, Davis was quick to point out that we’ve only begun to change the world by tapping our radical potential. We invite you to be a part of the change by taking PATH’s Innovation Countdown survey.
— Steve Davis (@SteveDavisPATH) September 25, 2014
- Tracy Romoser is a communications officer and the blog editor at PATH.