Developing far-reaching global health interventions requires innovation, and with today’s constantly advancing technology opportunities for innovation are abundant. But ideas alone can not change the world. Ideas need a platform, financing as well as practical application measures to make an idea a reality. This is one reason why partnerships across sectors are vital.
Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance provides the perfect example of a successful partnership leading to innovation. Gavi is a public-private partnership bringing together the United Nation (UN), governments, the vaccine industry, private sector and civil society to improve childhood vaccine coverage in low income countries, as well as accelerate access to newly developed vaccines. Since 2000 Gavi has reached over 700 million children and prevented nearly 10 million deaths, but while this is important progress several challenges remain. Fertility rates in urban areas and fragile or conflict affected countries continue to grow which will make sustaining and increasing vaccine coverage more challenging. Additionally, the number of “zero-dose children,” children who have never received a vaccine, has not decreased since 2010.
In order to address current challenges in vaccine coverage requires innovation. In 2016, Gavi launched the Innovation for Uptake, Scale and Equity in Immunization (INFUSE) program designed to improve vaccine delivery systems by connecting high-impact innovations with the countries that need them the most. Through building and utilizing partnerships over the last four years Gavi has hosted an annual call for innovators to submit proposals. Winners are chosen as “Pacesetters” who are then connected with investors and governments to help bring those ideas to market and scale.
This is made possible because of Gavi’s expansive network and reputation for successful partnerships. While global health organizations could explore endless ways to replicate different Gavi efforts in partnership building, innovative funding strategies and technology advancement, global health organizations can also utilize Pacesetters’ innovative technologies for broader global health challenges. The call for innovations for 2019 was to address immunization issues specific to urban settings. Over the summer, three winners were chosen as Pacesetters out of 100 applicants.
- VillageReach – Praekelt.org. In partnership these organizations created a chatbot technology powered by AI and machine learning to increase access to information about immunization services. Praekelt.org is a non-profit organization, based in South Africa, that utilizes mobile technology to solve social problems. The organization works in over 65 countries designing products using human centered design and agile development processes, and has developed several global health focused products.
- ZMQ Development leverages the power of storytelling to boost immunization rates in the slums of New Delhi. This non-profit organization, based in India, creates and implements practical technology linked tools and solutions to empower communities by providing timely information and connecting them with life-saving services. ZMQ has developed several innovative programs for global health, including programs for women’s health, HIV/AIDS and polio.
- Premise. Premise Data provides an analytics platform using crowd-sourced data to help governments improve and optimize immunization services. Premise is a for-profit company, based in San Francisco, that aims to close the information gap by empowering a network of thousands of individuals around the globe to collect and share information with decision-makers. Premise has worked with international development organizations all over the world to help collect and optimize data.
Through INFUSE, Gavi has not only encouraged new innovation, but also made these ideas more recognized among the global community. As global health professionals knowing the potential resources and partnerships available is critical to program success. Now Gavi is doing some vetting for the rest of us by highlighting innovative Pacesetters. Let’s capitalize on INFUSE to form new successful partnerships to solve real world global health problems.