Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

80 Programs to Improve the Health and Lives of Women in the Developing World

December 10, 2012

If I lived in a developing country, I could easily have been another maternal mortality statistic. Both of my children had to be delivered by cesarean section, and I might have perished without the top quality maternal health care that we in the developed world often take for granted.

That’s why I’m inspired when I see the growing number and quality of health market innovations now emerging in the developing world.  More private non-profit, for-profit and faith-based organizations are innovating to provide better maternal, newborn, and child health.  Some of these innovations can make the difference between life and death for mothers and children. Meanwhile, more governments are recognizing that they can harness private providers by financing care for the poor through vouchers or contracts.

Since 2010, the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) has been identifying, analyzing and promoting innovations that have potential to improve not only maternal and child health, but many other types of care for low-income people.

In our second annual edition of Highlights, released this week, we describe 80 innovative programs launched in the last 12 months around the world. These new programs bring to 1,250 the total number of non-profits, social enterprises, public-private partnerships and policies CHMI has profiled.

This issue of Highlights spotlights diverse and creative innovations that are improving maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) care.  A number of these programs rely on information and communications technology, and several involve forms of government payment that are improving access to care while increasing the sustainability of private sector health care organizations.

Here are just a few examples:

Improved purchasing power for the poor

In Cambodia, Vouchers for Reproductive Health Services Project provides poor women with vouchers for care and transportation, which allow them to access prenatal care and safe deliveries at non-profit and public facilities.  CHMI profiles 13 such voucher programs in different countries around the world.

In Kenya, Changamka Microhealth uses a mobile-phone based system to help women save money so they can pay for prenatal, maternity, and postnatal services. CHMI profiles three such mobile money programs for maternal, newborn and child health.

Low-cost delivery models

In Indonesia, the Family Clinic, a non-profit chain of clinics in poor urban communities, provides high-quality deliveries.  Government health insurance helps keep patient volume high and prices low. CHMI profiles 11 such service delivery chains.

Also in Indonesia, ProSmiling Terpadu provides primary care services, maternity care and nutritional screening for children through mobile health clinics. CHMI profiles 16 mobile clinic programs.

Technology to educate mothers

The Kenya Integrated Mobile MNCH Information Platform sends timely SMS and voice messages with important health reminders to pregnant women who register and provide their due date.

Similarly in Bangladesh, mobile phone service provider Aponjon provides pregnant women and new mothers with reliable and culturally relevant information about how to care for themselves and their babies. It also gives advice on when to seek medical care, linking subscribers to health services. CHMI profiles eight mobile phone services.

Technology to support frontline health workers

D-tree International, a mobile phone-based clinical decision support software operating in several countries , helps clinic staff and community health workers diagnose and treat patients, and monitor the health of mothers and children during pregnancy.

In India, a mobile phone-based health information system called the Maternal Health Reporter enables community health workers to provide uninterrupted care and follow-up, even in rural areas, through SMS text messages and recorded information.

These examples of newly launched programs are profiled in the CHMI Highlights 2012 report, with more detailed information on these and all 1,250 innovative health programs on our website.

In 2013, we will be watching to see whether these programs are able to scale to serve more people and further improve their models.  We’ll also continue our search for new innovators working to solve the challenges of healthcare in the developing world so that more people have access to the life-saving care that my children and I were lucky enough to receive.


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