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Grand Challenges Brazil: Reducing the Burden of Preterm Birth

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February 27, 2013

Increasingly, Brazil is seen as a global leader in innovative research in medicine and public health and in the development and manufacture of life saving technologies such as vaccines. Announced this week, the Brazilian Ministry of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have launched a call for proposals to promote innovation in health research to tackle some of the biggest challenges of maternal and child health.

Initially, Grand Challenges Brazil will fund research that seeks the best, innovative ideas to better understand the reasons for preterm birth, to develop new and more effective interventions to prevent and manage these early births, and to scale up solutions for impact in averting deaths and disability from prematurity.

Complications related to preterm birth are the second leading cause of death in children under five globally. Especially in resource-poor settings, where many advanced technologies are not widely available, babies born too soon are at an even greater risk of dying. We know amazingly little about why babies are born before they should be, and how to prevent this from happening.

Grand Challenges in Global Health was originally established to bring together scientists and researchers from across different backgrounds, sectors, countries and scientific disciplines to be creative and innovative to solve global health problems. This initiative in Brazil expands those efforts to new researchers, revolutionary ideas, bold solutions, and hopefully some new, simple answers to questions in the broader society about preterm birth.

Brazil is in an ideal situation to take on this challenge. They are already boosting their aid to poor countries, as was highlighted at the BRICS Summit several months ago. Brazil’s political leaders have an active global role as champions of South to South cooperation . They have a long-standing commitment to health equity, demonstrated many years ago by being the first developing country to guarantee free access to treatment for HIV/AIDS patients. And strong research institutions already exist throughout Brazil with substantial investments in research and development.

This alliance creates opportunities to develop innovative solutions that could have broad impact both within and beyond Brazilian borders. Innovation will span scientific discovery, product development, health systems, and even behavior change. Researchers and practitioners will become part of a global network of scientists working together to improve the lives of mothers and babies.

This initiative goes hand-in-hand with other collaborative activities in agriculture, vaccine development, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and dengue fever, and the Grand Challenge Explorations program which is already working together with the Brazilian State Research Foundations to address key gaps in health research.

With Brazil’s involvement, an already broad network of global partners engaged in innovative health research is strengthened by the unique resources and experiences that Brazil brings to the table. Innovations developed in Brazil likely won’t stay in Brazil; with foresight and planning, innovations can spread through networks and have impact far beyond Brazilian shores.

Learn more about how to apply for Grand Challenges Brazil here.

 
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