On World Pneumonia Day, more than 50 innovators and 150 global health leaders assembled at the inaugural Pneumonia Innovations Summit to discuss the next wave of innovations with the potential to transform the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of childhood pneumonia.
The leading infectious disease killer of children, pneumonia kills more than 950,000 children under five every year, the vast majority in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many children die because of delays in appropriate care seeking, diagnosis and treatment as outlined in the recent report, Pushing the Pace: Progress and Challenges in Fighting Childhood Pneumonia. As a result, reductions in childhood pneumonia deaths have not kept pace with declines in malaria, diarrhea, measles and AIDS deaths, leading to calls for new technologies and service delivery models to drive down pneumonia deaths to the levels required to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.
Innovations highlighted at the Summit include respiratory rate timers, pulse oximeters, oxygen therapy, and childfriendly antibiotics, as well as technologies to reduce household air pollution and increase access to breast milk, especially for the most vulnerable babies. Experts from universities, business, UN agencies, government and non-government organizations agreed that a big push to get new and improved technologies to the populations where child pneumonia deaths are concentrated is now critical for the achievement of health goals.
Ten innovators were selected to present their most promising innovations including Udantha Abeyratne, Mohammod Jobayer Chisti, Micaela Collins, Faye Evans, Barry Finette, Michael Hawkes, Bernard Olayo, Kristi Otto, Henrik Pranov, and Tim Prestero. A panel of experts from UNICEF, PATH, Malaria Consortium, IBM Watson Health and Grand Challenges Canada offered advice on how to accelerate development and uptake of these innovations, especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where pneumonia kills more than 750,000 children every year.
Other innovations highlighted at the Summit include antibiotics mixed with peanut butter that could simultaneously fight bacteria and malnutrition, a urine dipstick that can distinguish viral from bacterial pneumonia, a diagnostic device shaped like an infant pacifier that measures vital signs, and a skin patch that dispenses antibiotics and changes color when the patch needs to be replaced.
The Summit announced more than $US30 million in new funding for several initiatives including:
• the Acute Respiratory Infection Diagnostic Aid (ARIDA) project – a $US5.5 million partnership between “la Caixa” Foundation and UNICEF to introduce a new generation of improved pneumonia diagnostic devices in several countries struggling with high burdens of childhood pneumonia;
• the winners of Grand Challenges Explorations Round 15, with novel concepts to reduce childhood pneumonia deaths through the delivery of timely and effective treatment and each awarded $US100,000 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation;
• a new $US25 million program to increase access to better diagnosis and treatment for pneumonia and diarrhea among children in Ethiopia and Nigeria, implemented by the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. (CHAI) and Results for Development (R4D), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program focuses on increasing availability and usage of the recommended antibiotic amoxicillin dispersible tablets and oxygen for pneumonia treatment;
• “Every Breath Counts”, a $US700,000 campaign by Speak Up Africa and UNICEF to galvanize donor interest in pneumonia, to raise popular awareness of pneumonia, and to increase appropriate care seeking by families, supported by the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children ($US200,000) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($US500,000); and
• scale up production of One Breath Ventilators‘ proven, rugged, and affordable mechanical ventilator with a $US760,000 investment by Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, which will enable over 17,000 patients to access early mechanical ventilation which is a lifesaving treatment for pneumonia and other conditions.
In addition, Royal Philips, the diversified health and well-being company, launched an innovative automated respiratory rate monitor designed especially for children under five. The Philips Children’s Automated Respiration Monitor will become available for sale in Africa and South Asia in the second half of 2016.
McCann Health, in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Abt Associates, UNICEF and USAID, unveiled the “Every Second Counts” campaign, a new and freely available multi-media resource kit including training videos, posters and flip charts that show frontline health care workers and families how to identify the tell-tale signs of pneumonia, how to seek proper care and how to count breaths to identify children in need of treatment.
Malaria Consortium announced the results of a multi-country field trial of several new diagnostic tools, tested in Cambodia, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda. The results will provide recommendations for Ministries of Health in all four countries who are looking to strengthen the diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia at community level.
The five winners of the Facebook People’s Choice Award for the Most Promising Childhood Pneumonia Innovations were announced and a new video, “Let’s Push the Pace”, was unveiled with a strong call to action to accelerate uptake of the innovations with the greatest impact on child pneumonia deaths prioritizing the populations where the needs are greatest.
The Summit issued a call to action to the global and national health stakeholders to invest in the innovations that can push the pace and win the battle against the leading infectious threat to child survival on the planet – pneumonia.