Malawi scoops Healthcare Innovation Award for developing countries

Malawi has been awarded the highest funding of $400, 000 in the first GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Save the Children Healthcare Innovation Award.

The award followed the innovation a simple low-cost device that helps new-born babies to breathe and has the potential to transform the life chances for thousands of African babies.

The life-saving kit, called a ‘bubble’ Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or ‘bCPAP’, is used to help babies in respiratory distress, which is often caused by acute respiratory infections like pneumonia.

The organization behind the innovation is Friends of Sick Children, Malawi – a partnership between the paediatric department of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies in the United States and the University Of Malawi College Of Medicine.

Henry Chimbali, Ministry of Health spokesman confirmed about the award

According to a press statement, the CPAP devices use air pressure to keep patients airways open, and as there are few wall-mounted air supplies in Malawi hospitals, the newly innovated bCPAP air pump works on its own.  Plus it is made of durable materials that are inexpensive and easy to repair.

“A similar version is already commonly used in developed countries where they cost at least $6,000 each. This innovative low-cost ‘bubble’ CPAP adaptation can be produced for approximately $400” reads the statement.

The statement says a judging panel of experts from the fields of public health and development,  co-chaired by Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK, and Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive of Save the Children,  were impressed with the bCPAP device’s impact on tackling newborn deaths, and the associated comprehensive training and education programme on premature child-care.

The funding from the Healthcare Innovation Award, along with backing from the Ministry of Health in Malawi, will mean use of the device can be replicated and expanded to Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa.

Newborn mortality rates continue to be a challenge in the developing world and in 2012, three million babies died in their first 28 days of life.

The bCPAP device was one of five projects, from a long list of nearly 100 applications from 29 countries across the developing world, selected by the judging panel.

“Through this initiative, we have seen a wealth of creativity and innovation to better serve children’s health needs in developing countries. I want to pay tribute to the ingenuity of all the organisations who applied for the award” says Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK.

He says such remarkable projects show that significant numbers of lives can be saved and improved through grass-roots innovation.

“We hope our awards will help ‘spread the word’ on many of these innovations and encourage others to use and learn from them,” he says.

Chief Executive Save the Children Justin Forsyth, despite huge progress being made in under-five mortality in the past ten years, there hasn’t been the same progress made in the number of newborn babies dying in poor countries in the first 28 days of life.

“This is an area that needs urgent attention, so it is heartening that all five winning innovations from this award concentrate on the area of newborn care.  It is also inspiring to see countries finding solutions to their own challenges and partnering with other countries in the developing world to replicate and champion new innovations,” he says

Four other countries apportioned grants from the $1 million fund are Bangladesh ($300,000), Mali, Kenya and Columbia who have received $100,000 each.

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