Innovations Abound at the Saving Lives at Birth Development XChange 2014
On August 1, 2014, hundreds of development professionals will convene in Washington D.C. for the Saving Lives at Birth Development XChange. The XChange showcases the 52 finalists and their proposals, widdled down from an initial 500 proposals. Additionally, the winner of the People’s Choice Award will be announced at the event.
The Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge for Development has been running since 2011, working to address the fact that, worldwide, a woman dies in childbirth every two minutes. The situation is even worse for women in the third world, 99% of all childbirth related deaths occur in developing countries.
Proposals could choose to tackle the issue through technology development and deployment, and/or by increasing service delivery and demand. In addition, all proposals were required to include monitored elements and a “review” or evaluation period in order to analyze efficacy. Overall, the competition aims to “accelerate substantial and sustainable progress against maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths at the community level… [by] harness[ing] the collective imagination and ingenuity of experts across a broad range of disciplines and expertise.”1
The Saving Lives at Birth challenge addresses the growing concern over mortality in the postnatal and neonatal period and prompts applicants to develop solutions that can be utilized during the first 48 hours after delivery. Saving Lives at Birth is one of five Grand Challenges for Development run annually by USAID and its partner organizations. The Grand Challenges for Development focus on solving pressing global issues through the use of science and technology and critical analysis. The judges seek innovations that scalable, adoptable, sustainable and utilize modern infrastructure.
Instead of a single winner, Saving Lives at Birth awards seed grants and transition-to-scale grants to roughly one-fourth of the finalists. Common topics for finalists include treatment of post-partum hemorrhage, prevention of HIV transfer from mother to child, treatment of (pre)eclampsia, prevention of infection, empowering communities, jaundice, and the treatment of malnourishment. The most successful innovations contained elements of low-cost, point-of-care use, rapid results, nonintrusive, compactness, building demand, low or no-need for electricity, and novelty. Development of novel, low-electricity solutions is especially critical since ~20-25% of the world lacks access to electricity, and 80% of people in the third world have no electricity whatsoever.
This year’s finalists tackle a variety of issues and have an impressive geographic span; there are applications from 6 of the 7 continents. Two of our former finalists, Plan International and Rice University (a partner of the University of Malawi) have made it to the finalist stage and will be participating in the Development XChange. Plan International’s proposal will utilize community-based organizations to distribute calcium supplements to pregnant women in order to prevent preeclampsia. Rice University’s proposal seeks funding for the development of a “BreathAlert” device that can detect apnea in newborns as well as induce breathing through chest vibrations.