The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need to not only rapidly develop health-care innovations but to also make them equitably available.
In this context, innovations that contribute to maintaining coverage of essential interventions, such as by facilitating task shifting, simplifying service delivery, or both, are crucial. Therefore, we argue that the case for a dedicated financing mechanism for scaling up innovations in women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health is stronger than ever.
Such coordinated and prompt action was possible because established organisations, such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, were already providing long-term financing channels to governments, academia, industry, and non-governmental organisations for the development, testing, and procurement of vaccines at a country level. By contrast, we do not have a similar financing system to rationalise and accelerate progress from the development to the adoption of innovations for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCAH). This gap represents a constant reminder of the unfinished agenda to address the health needs of these populations, especially in times of crises. Without a commitment from the global RMNCAH leadership to shift from fragmented efforts, such as calls for proposals with limited scope issued by individual organisations, to a dedicated financing and procurement system to foster and scale up RMNCAH innovations, it is unlikely that technological progress will benefit individuals most in need. This situation is not only an argument for innovation scale up but also one of equity and social justice in preventing the avoidable deaths of women, children, and adolescents.
Innovation scale-up requires particular elements to succeed, such as generation of the evidence base to show potential for impact and ensuring financial support in resource-limited settings for procurement and adoption. RMNCAH innovations have specific and considerable barriers to fulfilling the requirements for scaling up. This situation often generates an avoidable delay in the implementation of innovations in resource-limited settings, compared with a streamlined adoption in high-income countries. The reasons for these challenges over the past decade relate to an absence of global advocacy and innovation prioritisation, limited resources for implementation research, scarce demand creation and provider training, and fragmented donor commitments to procurement funding.
Policy makers’ decisions to adopt and implement innovations would be informed by an expected level of evidence. A dedicated approach would contribute to the rationalisation and harmonisation of prequalification, regulatory processes, clinical guidelines, and training programmes and would provide opportunities to generate demand at a country level, as seen in the fields of vaccines and HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. The development of long-term procurement financing channels would also help countries to adopt innovations at scale and would simultaneously allow the private sector to forecast development, production, and distribution costs against guaranteed volumes.
The device is designed to be safe for mothers and babies and to reduce the skill level and equipment required to perform assisted vaginal deliveries during a prolonged or complicated second stage of labour.
Interim results of ongoing clinical trials in the UK and France indicate promising levels of safety and efficacy.
If substantiated at the completion of these trials, these findings warrant further testing for determination of impact in resource-limited settings, where there is even greater need for the device than in high-income countries. Such testing could also inform plans for future in-country implementation. The logical progression of testing in different resource settings could be accelerated and optimised if dedicated financial and technical resources were readily available.
Such efforts should be expanded to realise a dedicated financing mechanism. The response of the global community to the COVID-19 challenge has shown that this mechanism is possible when supported by political will.