April 8, 2015 |

What we mean when we say “innovation”

PATH’s brand of innovation means sticking with good ideas until the end. How do you define innovation in global health?
Steve Davis gesturing and speaking with colleagues.
Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH, shares his insight on how we view innovation. PATH/Fatou Kande-Senghor.

Innovation that matters has been our mantra for nearly 40 years

There are innovations, and then there are innovations that matter. In global health, bright ideas and eureka moments are important for propelling us forward, but they won’t truly make a difference until they reach the people who need them and start transforming their lives. Some of these game-changers are as specific as a new drug or vaccine formulation with the power to save hundreds of thousands of babies, while others involve redesigning complex systems and rethinking the decisions we make each day to solve age-old problems.

Two women giving a little boy rehydration fluids from a green cup.
Finding fast treatment for diarrheal diseases. Photo: PATH/Sara Watson.

Since PATH’s founding nearly 40 years ago, we have advanced evidence-based approaches and tools to solve the world’s most difficult health problems, setting our sights well beyond new gadgets and gizmos to delivering solutions with staying power.

Disrupting the cycle of poor health is at the core of PATH’s work as we seek to improve the lives of women and children in poor countries. We know that health innovations can drive massive improvements in health worldwide. We work across five platforms—vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations—to advance hundreds of technological and social service interventions in our pipeline. To take these innovations to scale, we work with partners in the private sector, funders, and governments to deliver measurable results and achieve impact.

A man in a lab coat holds a test tube.
Will the most crucial innovations in the next 15 years be forged of steel, build of silicon chips, coded from zeros and ones, or planted in the ground?

We’re passionate about big ideas at all stages of development, from research and development to delivering solutions to millions of people in the world’s most vulnerable communities—and we’re especially focused on the complex “middle” of the value chain where innovations tend to stall and die. PATH’s brand of innovation means sticking with good ideas until the end, making sure the mechanisms and support are in place to bring them through research, development, and introduction and to scale them up to reach as many people as possible. It also means adapting to geopolitical and technological evolutions, and working across borders and sectors to turn great ideas into transformational changes.

For example, PATH worked with our partners in China for more than a decade to bring a much-needed vaccine against Japanese encephalitis (JE) to communities across Asia and the Western Pacific. China had safely used the vaccine to protect millions of its children against the debilitating disease, and we saw its potential to dramatically change the face of JE in other countries. We used an innovative systems approach to make it happen, including strengthening disease surveillance in countries at risk, negotiating an affordable public-sector price, and then providing technical expertise to private-sector partners to achieve international regulatory approval that will make the vaccine broadly accessible and sustainable.

How do you define innovation in global health? The Journey of Innovation: learn more.

This post is part of Mapping the Journey, a multi-part series which explores how PATH turns ideas into solutions that bring equity, dignity, and health to women, children, and families worldwide. This article originally appeared on the Guardian.

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