The Lancet and the Imperial College of London recently introduced the Commission on Technologies for Global Health. As part of the press release, Sam Hughes of the Lancet interviewed Peter Howitt, head of The Lancet Commission on Technologies for Global Health. Peter explained how "technologies for health" is a broader concept than "health technologies", and stressed that "The key is to for health advocates to think broadly so we're not just focusing on the purely health issues, but looking at the bigger picture, the wider determinants of health."
Maternova tracks many different types of innovations that improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes. Many of them fall under this category of technologies for health- ones whose primary purpose is not health related, but whose proper functioning can improve health. Our Innovation Index's categories "Systems and Structures" and "Transport" highlight these. Products like our PowerPak help frontline health workers see better in dim environments, and improve the quality of care they are able to provide, the quality of records they are able to keep, and ultimately improve outcomes. On a larger scale, infrastructure like roads and telecommunications are essential to the improvement of global health outcomes.
The Lancet makes five recommendations as part of their work. Maternova agrees with all of these initiatives:
First, increased funding and support are needed to enable the development of more frugal technologies.
Second, technology should be combined with other innovations to support effective adoption and implementation—technology should not be considered in isolation from the wider context or health system of a low-income or middle-income country.
Third, we need to think broadly and take a multidisciplinary approach to development and introduction of new technologies. Most health problems are best addressed by a combination of technologies, some of which are specific to health, such as drugs and medical devices, whereas others have health benefits that arise from use outside of health, such as the internet or irrigation.
Fourth, when possible, technology that is already available in resource-poor settings (such as mobile telephones) should be used as a platform for health interventions.
Fifth, development needs to be assessed after 2015; the capacity to create and use technology should be a key development measure and a focus for global action.
Maternova is excited to follow the Commission's work on highlighting Technologies for Global Health. The entire introductory paper is available on The Lancet's website.