Top 5 innovative healthcare technologies that could save millions of lives
The world stands on the cusp of an "unprecedented opportunity – the chance to transform health through the power of innovation". So write the authors of the Reimagining Global Health report, which highlights advances in science and technology with the potential to save millions of lives.
The report is the inaugural publication of the Innovation Countdown 2030, an initiative set up by healthcare organisation Path and supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the US Agency for International Development.
The full report examines 30 innovations with the potential to drive progress over the next 15 years on meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of ending preventable maternal and child deaths, a selection of those advances appears below.
New tools for small-scale water treatment
Lack of access to clean water is a problem endemic around the world, leading to serious disease and death. "New technologies are making the use of chlorine for disinfecting water at small-scale community water sources both feasible and economical with the potential for significant savings in diarrhoea treatment costs," the report said, highlighting the Zimba automated batch chlorinator, "a rugged device fitted directly to a hand pump or community tap that automatically chlorinates water to a safe concentration without electricity or moving parts".
The report estimates that if used effectively the innovation could save more than 1.51 million lives between 2015 and 2030.
Chlorhexidine for umbilical cord care
Hundreds of thousands of newborn babies die around the world every year from infections acquired during childbirth. According to the report, "chlorhexidine liquid or gel substantially reduces the risk of infection when applied to the umbilical cord stump soon after birth. It delivers chlorhexidine at a safe and effective 7.1 per cent concentration, appropriate for use at home by low-level health workers or family members."
The report estimates that if used effectively the innovation could save more than 1.4 million lives between 2015 and 2030.
Assisted delivery device
While cesarean sections can be used to relieve prolonged labour, the cost, complexity and heightened risk of infection posed by the procedure means that alternatives are needed, particularly in low resource areas. "One solution is the BD Odon Device, which features a polyethylene film that is wrapped around the baby’s head, allowing a health worker to assist with delivery," the report said. "If proven safe and effective, the device could become an important innovation for reducing the risk of infection and injury for mother and baby."
The report estimates that if used effectively the innovation could save more than 249,000 lives between 2015 and 2030.
Better respiratory rate monitors
Many health workers in low-resource settings are currently forced to diagnose potentially fatal respiratory issues by counting the number of breaths a patient takes per minute. "New respiratory rate monitoring tools will improve the diagnosis and timely treatment of infants and children with pneumonia," the report said, highlighting the Inspire Sensor, a "low-cost device that monitors respiratory rate as well as body temperature. It is also more reliable and easier to use than existing tools and transmits data to nearby devices."
The report estimates that if used effectively the innovation could save more than 908,000 lives between 2015 and 2030.
Portable pulse oximeters to measure oxygen
Measurement of bloody oxygen levels is an important method of detecting pneumonia, the leading cause of death among children five and under. Pulse oximeters placed on the fingertips can "measure light transmission through the body to determine the blood oxygen level", according to the report. New types of oximeter can be attached to mobile phones "to accurately measure oxygen levels without touching the body".
The report estimates that if used effectively the innovation could save more than 772,000 lives between 2015 and 2030.