Launched in 2008, the initiative awarded Phase I grants of $100,000 over eighteen months to researchers in sixteen countries working in four areas: wearables and technology for maternal, neonatal, and child health behavior change; new approaches for improving the timeliness of routine immunizations in low-resource settings; innovations for integrated diagnostics systems; and health systems strengthening.
Recipients include Ratul Narain of BEMPU Technologies in India, who's working on Kangagrow, a sling mothers can use for "kangaroo care" — that is, making sure that newborns get as much skin-to-skin contact as possible; Robert Steinglass of JSI Research & Training Institute, who will teach community members in India how to use a double-sided dhol, a traditional drum used for communication over long distances, to let families know that vaccination teams have arrived; Daniel Carucci of the Immunity Charm Foundation, who is working on a bracelet designed to encourage families in South Asia to keep up with their children's vaccinations; and Fassika Fikre Hailemeskel of Maisha Technologies in Ethiopia, who is working on a drone that can fly over difficult terrain to deliver blood to health facilities quickly.
"Compared to some of the projects we fund, these projects may seem 'simple'. They're certainly easier to explain," Steven Buchsbaum, deputy director of discovery and translational sciences in the Global Health Program at the Gates Foundation, wrote in a blog post. "But the fact is, none of the brilliant scientists we work with on 'complicated' projects like gene editing and vaccine conjugation would have conceived of any of these projects, much less implemented them. It takes a nuanced understanding of how people lead their daily lives in specific places, why systems don't work, and who is solving related challenges in smart ways."