Without a doubt, the past 40 years have seen transformative breakthroughs in global health: the eradication of smallpox, the development and launch of vaccines against leading child killers like pneumonia and diarrhea, powerful drugs that have transformed AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable disease, and advances in mobile communications and data use that impact health in a myriad of ways. These successes have saved lives and dramatically improved health for millions of people worldwide.
PATH has spent these past four decades advancing breakthrough health innovations, but we’ll be the first to tell you that we could not have done it alone. Only through meaningful partnerships and cross-sector collaboration have we been able to drive innovations that truly deliver impact.
That’s why we took the opportunity of PATH’s 40th anniversary to celebrate with many of our public and private sector partners in the global health and development community in Washington, DC—both to highlight our shared progress and reflect on what it will take to tackle the global health challenges of the next 40 years.
We were so grateful to be joined by Bill Steiger, Chief of Staff of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), who reinforced the US Administration’s commitment to global health and highlighted several of the areas of PATH-USAID partnership, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, President’s Malaria Initiative, and successful innovations for maternal and child health.
Rachel Martin, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, moderated an awesome all-female panel, inspiring the audience to turn outrage into change and challenging the panelists on what that change should look like.
Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, movingly spoke on the importance of multi-sector partnerships and keeping the commitment to global health equity at the center of our work.
Her Excellency Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Minister of State to the President, Republic of Senegal, and a former PATH board member, reflected on the remarkable improvements her country has achieved in health over the past few decades, with support from partners such as PATH and the US government.
Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, Cochair of Every Woman Every Child EveryWhere, reminded us all to stay focused on addressing the challenges facing women and girls living in some of the most difficult places in the world.
Throughout the evening’s festivities, a few common themes rose to the top of the conversation.
You don’t need high-tech gadgets to save lives
All of the panelists echoed the idea that innovation does not necessarily have to come in the form of a flashy, new, expensive gadget. Often, something that costs less than US$10 can save millions of lives, and some of the most successful global health innovations have revolved around transforming existing products to make them cheaper and easily accessible.
Chelsea Clinton delighted the audience with an anecdote about one of her favorite PATH technologies—the vaccine vial monitor—which she said her three-year-old daughter describes as “magic stickers.”
Princess Sarah talked about the importance of being nimble in fragile settings and how training is vital to ensuring innovations are adopted. She even brought props—the NeoNatalie™ baby from PATH partner Laerdal.
Unusual partnerships lead to increased impact
The panelists also agreed that one of the biggest successes of the past four decades has been the increase of unlikely partnerships between the public and private sectors for maximum impact. From vaccines to cancer drugs, partnerships have increased access to health technologies by bringing together resources, expertise, and technical know-how for a common goal, resulting in meaningful partnerships and the acceleration of health impact.
US leadership has been and continues to be vital to global health
One of the most powerful moments of the evening was when Minister Coll-Seck recounted the events of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Senegal’s neighboring countries and the impact of US government assistance—namely USAID and CDC—to enable her and her country to rapidly respond and help Senegal contain the outbreak to just one case:
The evening ended on an inspirational note, with the panelists and PATH President and CEO Steve Davis sharing their hopes for what we can accomplish together over the next 40 years: universal health coverage, the end of preventable deaths, and progress in global health such that the work of PATH and its international partners will no longer be needed. Here’s a toast to that.
Follow #PATH40 for more clips and quotes from the event.
- Carolyn Reynolds is vice president for Policy and Advocacy at PATH.