December 29, 2014 |

Bold innovations: 7 global health picks of 2014

Contraceptives, newborn action plans & cervical self-testing are making the New Year a little brighter this year.
Young woman smiles as a health worker administers a shot to her upper arm.
Vaccines are among the safest products in medicine—another reason we like them. The MenAfriVac® vaccine campaign delivered the first vaccine that didn’t require refrigeration. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Powerful innovations emerged in 2014 offering bold new ways to save lives and improve health. To help us narrow the list, we stopped our PATH colleagues in the hallways, on the elevators, and after meetings to ask them what life-changing innovations caught their attention, both within and beyond our PATH footprint.

Here, in no particular order, are seven bright global health solutions that our colleagues felt made the world a better place to live in this year.

The first vaccine allowed outside the cold chain

The MenAfriVac® vaccine campaign was the first mass vaccination campaign conducted in Africa with a vaccine that doesn’t require constant refrigeration. Currently, more than 200 million people have been protected with MenAfriVac, and not a single case of meningitis A has occurred among the vaccinated individuals. The vaccine remains viable even when kept outside the cold chain for up to four days, saving money on the costly vaccine “cold chain” and allowing the vaccine to reach more people in remote locations. (Learn more.)

New drug therapy offers tuberculosis treatment for HIV patients

A novel drug combination was unveiled at the AIDS 2014 symposium that allows HIV-positive patients to be treated for tuberculosis (TB) while they’re taking HIV drugs. Researchers from the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development say the new drug combination, known as PaMZ, can also cure some forms of drug-resistant TB in as little as four months. Current TB treatments take up to two years, increasing the chance of drug resistance among patients. (Learn more.)

A simple, low-cost injectable contraceptive launches in four African countries

“Women, no matter where they live, should have access to contraceptives that meet their needs,” says Sara Tifft, director of PATH’s Sayana® Press pilot introduction and evaluation project. Sayana Press, which PATH helped to develop, has the potential to reach tens of thousands of women who want the choice of an injectable contraceptive but who lack easy access to clinics where the injections are given. (Learn more.)

Woman looks into a microscope.
A new fund has mobilized $4 billion to help finance and strengthen the health systems in developing countries. Photo: PATH/Mike Wang.

Innovative new financing facility boosts budgets for global health

This past year, the World Bank Group and Governments of Canada, Norway, and the United States came together to create a Global Financing Facility to help developing countries finance and strengthen their health programs, and build the necessary systems to end extreme poverty. So far, the partnership has mobilized $4 billion to fund a facility that’s expected to be fully operational in 2015. (Learn more.)

Woman looks at the camera and smiles.
Eighty-five percent of cervical cancer cases occur in the developing world. Increasing prevention, screening, and care is essential in countries like Nicaragua. Photo: PATH/Mike Wang.

Cervical cancer self-sampling shown to be as effective as clinic-based exams

In a recent blog post, Dr. José Jerónimo, senior advisor for women’s cancers at PATH, says that when women are taught to self-test for human papillomavirus, it frees up the time of busy health workers. This dramatically increases the ability of clinics and hospitals to treat more women who test positive for precancer, thereby preventing cases of cervical cancer.

The self-sampling test works nearly as well as when doctors or nurses gather cervical mucus samples during a pelvic examination. Pelvic exams are a rate limiter—the exam takes time, limiting the number of women who can be seen by each trained provider.

Newborn baby being admired as mother rests in background.
More than 190 countries signed on to support the Every Newborn action plan. Photo: PATH/Evelyn Hockstein.

First-ever Every Newborn action plan

Over the past two decades, improvements in newborn death rates have failed to keep pace with improvements for older children. The landmark Every Newborn: An Action Plan to End Preventable Deaths addresses this by focusing attention on existing low-cost, high-impact interventions that will prevent millions of newborn deaths and stillbirths across the globe each year. (Learn more.)

Malaria drugs made with semisynthetic artemisinin make their way to patients

The first shipment of semisynthetic artemisinin (ssART)-based malaria drugs—1.7 million treatments of Sanofi’s gold-standard artemisinin-based combination therapy, Artesunate Amodiaquine Winthrop®—made their way to customers for the first time. This opens a new future for the global artemisinin market. By providing a year-round source of this key ingredient in malaria medicine, ssART helps to manage imbalances in supply and demand, and maintain stable and affordable pricing—ultimately expanding access to treatment. (Learn more.)

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  • Portrait of Tracy Romoser. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.
    Tracy Romoser is a communications officer and the blog editor at PATH.