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15 affordable health innovations

The World Health Organization has compiled a compendium of life saving health technologies that can be harnessed by countries with limited resources.

Hefty price tags on new technologies can prevent countries from being able to access potentially life saving equipment. To counter this WHO has produced a compendium of solutions that are designed to offer quick and future remedies that can tackle COVID issues, improve the overall health quality of citizens, and are able to answer an unmet need. While 15 of them are ready, off the shelve innovations, others are at the prototype stage.

“Innovative technologies are accelerating access to healthcare everywhere, but we must ensure that they are readily available in all health facilities, fairly priced and quality-assured,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant Director General for Access to Health Products. “WHO will continue to work with governments, funders and manufacturers to promote sustainable supplies of these tools during and beyond the COVID emergency.”

The technologies are presented, after having had a full assessment by a team of international experts working in collaboration with WHO technical experts, alongside in-depth detail and data on their efficacy in different scenarios. Information that allows government bodies and funders to make faster decisions on which to procure.

There are a range of pioneering tools in the compendium, with some already making an impact, such as the solar powered oxygen concentrator. In pilot initiatives it has proved its effectiveness in treating pneumonia, which kills nearly one million children annually. Each of the technologies is explained in simple terms using a traffic light scoring systems, to show whether it is recommended; recommended with caution; or not recommended.

WHO has a strong record in assessing new technologies, something which has been part of its remit for a decade. Many of those it has put forward as potentially game changing have transformed lives in low-resource areas. One example is a smartphone app that enables users to measure their blood pressure in real-time. Last week, the organisation released statistics showing the number of adults, aged between 30-89, suffering from hypertension has risen from 650 million to 1.28 billion in the last three decades. A ticking time tomb the software-app can hopefully help users stay one step ahead of. And with smartphones available even in the most remote areas, and the app useable without the need for any other devices, or access to a health worker, it is an effective way for people to better manage their blood pressure.

Solutions premium

In his book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Bill Gates consistently returns to the point that a focus on reducing green premiums is of paramount importance. In essence, making costs of innovations designed to support the transition to a low-carbon world the same, or cheaper, than the fossil fuel system they aim to replace. The way money is currently controlled stands in the way of efforts to improve human or environmental health. Policy makers and decision makers must do more to remove the financial hurdles slowing progress, while efforts continue to reduce the premiums that currently exist. Far more work is also needed to provide better financial mechanisms that can support local innovators develop solutions to challenges on their doorstep.

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Written By

Susan is the co-founder of Innovators Magazine and a consultant for OnePoint5 Media. Susan is also a member of the UNFCCC-led Resilience Frontiers Nexus group and co-chair of the APOPO Foundation UK board.

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