8 innovations that will transform global health by 2030

Throughout the world, people are living longer and healthier lives. That’s due in no small part to advances in simple and relatively cheap healthcare tools, like on-site rapid disease testing and
lenses that turn smartphones into microscopes.

A new report from global health nonprofit PATH looks into 30 emerging global health innovations that will further transform the healthcare landscape by 2030. Selected from over 500 ideas submitted by healthcare experts around the world (including many from low and middle-income countries), these innovations could save countless lives over the years.

Here are some of the highlights.

Zimba's automated chlorinator fits onto community taps and hand pumps, automatically making up to 8,000 litres of water drinkable before needing a refill. The best part: it has no easily breakable moving parts, and doesn't require electricity. So far, it's been tested in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

An alternative to C-sections in places that lack the resources to perform them, the BD Odon Device is equipped with a plastic film that wraps around a baby's head. The device, which is currently in the early stages of development, can be pulled to gently ease the child out of its mother's birth canal.

When delivered in gel or liquid form, an antibacterial called chlorhexidine -- often found in prescription mouthwash -- can dramatically cut down infection risk for babies when applied to their umbilical cord's stump just after birth. It's cheap, affordable, and safe for even family members to use.

A malaria vaccine that blocks the transmission from people to mosquitoes of a parasite that causes the disease (Plasmodium falciparum) could keep infection from spreading on the population level. If mosquitoes are blocked from spreading malaria, it doesn't matter if every single person has a vaccine. This treatment isn't yet available.

Pneumonia is a tricky disease -- it's hard to diagnose, which means treatment is often delayed. In low-income countries, healthcare workers often try to count patients' breaths to spot it. PATH believes that tools like the INSPIRE sensor, a portable $15 to $20 device that monitors body temperature and respiratory rate (and then transmits the data to other devices), could help.

Oxytocin, a type of hormone that's also available in medication form, can control bleeding after childbirth. But it currently only exists as a liquid injectable that has to be refrigerated. Less-complicated formulations, like fast-dissolving tablets placed under the tongue or dry powders that can be taken through an inhaler, could bring oxytocin to outlying areas in developing countries. PATH estimates that this will be available in about seven years.

The Sayana Press is a version of Depo-Provera -- a popular injectable contraceptive -- packaged in a simple injection system. At a cost of just $1, a single dose offers three months of protection, and the injection system is easy enough to use that women could use it on themselves. PATH is piloting Sayana Press in Niger, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Senegal.

In the future, mobile devices will be a key part of managing health in low-income nations. Open-source apps that come preloaded on mobile phones, for example, could allow community healthcare workers to register patients, track them, offer referrals, and pull up their health data instantly.

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