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A year in review: The top stories in global health innovation that shaped 2016

This guest post was written by Kat Kelley, Senior Program Assistant at Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), and originally appeared on GHTC’s website.

A health worker's hand holds up a cartridge of the SD BIOLINE Onchocerciasis IgG4 rapid test pre-production prototype, for diagnosing onchocerciasis (river blindness), showing a negative result.

2016 was a year that ushered in significant shifts in the global health landscape. We witnessed the waning of the Ebola epidemic and the waxing of the Zika outbreak; important leadership changes among the biggest institutional players in global health; and the development and introduction of new innovations that could turn the tide against leading infectious disease killers.

GHC Member, Global Health Technologies Coalition reflects on the top stories in global health innovation that made news in 2016. Here are seven of those top moments:

1. Scientists mobilize against Zika

Once considered an obscure virus responsible for a mild illness, Zika took the world by storm in 2016. As the virus gained a foothold in more than 60 countries, its association with devastating birth defects and neurological conditions was firmly established. Prior to Zika’s emergence in the Americas, only 25 research papers had been published on the virus. As the epidemic grew, scientists around the world joined the fight against Zika, often sharing their data and research in real time to speed progress. Thanks to the efforts of these researchers, over the past year our scientific understanding of Zika has grown exponentially, and we have advanced a robust pipeline of new tools to prevent, detect, and treat Zika. Today, there are more than 35 Zika vaccine candidates under development; 13 Zika diagnostics have been authorized for use by the US Food and Drug Administration; and researchers are screening novel compounds and evaluating existing drugs to advance treatments for the disease.

2. The world commits to the fight against antimicrobial resistance

2016 marked the year the world finally got serious about tackling antimicrobial resistance. On the heels of several major analyses examining the potentially devastating health and economic impact of antimicrobial resistance, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly convened global leaders for a high-level summit on antimicrobial resistance—the fourth time such a meeting has been held on a health-related topic during the UN’s 71-year history. At the close of the summit, UN member states unanimously endorsed and adopted a political declaration committing to developing action plans and policies; mobilizing resources; and supporting public awareness, surveillance, and R&D efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance. It is our hope that 2017 will mark the year political commitment translates to concrete action to advance the development of new antibiotics.

3. New strategies deployed to stymie mosquito-borne diseases

Mosquito-borne diseases remain an age-old scourge, but 2016 saw the advancement of several novel strategies to combat these tiny foes.

Efforts to combat mosquito-borne diseases with the transmission blocking–bacteria Wolbachia took an important leap forward this year. Past studies have shown that when the Wolbachia bacteria is introduced to Aedes aegypti mosquitos—which carry viruses like Zika and yellow fever—it prevents the viruses from replicating and blocks further transmission. Because the bacteria can be passed from one generation of mosquitoes to the next, the bacteria offers hope for eliminating a virus’s presence within a local mosquito population. After several years of conducting small-scale tests of this method, the Eliminate Dengue Program announced in 2016 it would begin conducting two large-scale trials in South America to determine whether this approach is effective in halting the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in large urban settings.

This year the biotech company Oxitec also advanced efforts to test the use of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce mosquito populations and disease transmission. The company has engineered mosquitoes that mate with A. aegyptimosquitoes, producing offspring that are unable to mature to adulthood. Early last year, Oxitec introduced the mosquitoes into the Brazilian city of Piracicaba, resulting in an 82 percent decrease in the population of A. aegypti mosquitoes in just nine months. Now, Oxitec has expanded the trial to a larger geographical area and is also initiating trials in the Florida Keys and the Cayman Islands.

4. World’s first kid-friendly TB medicine launches

Children who receive tuberculosis (TB) medicines require a different dose than adults, yet until this year, there were no TB medicines designed specifically for children, so parents were forced to split or crush adult pills in an attempt to administer the right dose to their child. This year, that all changed with the launch of the world’s first kid-friendly TB medication. Developed by TB Alliance, the medicine is designed with the unique needs of children in mind: It is fruit-flavored, dissolvable in water, easy to administer, and appropriately-dosed. Already, more than 30 countries have adopted the new medicines, and enough orders have been placed to treat half of childhood TB cases worldwide.

5. Unique HIV prevention option for women reaches important development milestone

Women may soon have a powerful new tool at their disposal to prevent HIV infection. Earlier this year, the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) announced the results of two large phase 3 clinical trials demonstrating that a monthly vaginal ring containing the antiretroviral drug dapivirine can help protect women from HIV. While initial results indicated that the dapivirine ring reduced HIV risk by approximately 30 percent, further analysis revealed that the ring reduced infection rates by 75 percent in women who used the ring consistently. Now, IPM is seeking regulatory approval for the dapivirine ring and is conducting open-label studies, enabling trial participants to continue using the ring as IPM collects additional data. The dapivirine ring is the only long-acting, female-initiated HIV prevention tool to have proven successful in phase 3 clinical trials. Young women in sub-Saharan Africa are more than twice as likely to be infected with HIV than their male counterparts, and thus female-centered prevention tools are needed stem the epidemic.

6. Roll out begins of world’s first malaria vaccine candidate

After decades of development and testing, the world’s first malaria vaccine candidate will soon be introduced in several communities in sub-Saharan Africa. The vaccine—RTS,S—was developed by PATH and GlaxoSmithKline and received a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency last year following completion of phase 3 clinical trials. In November, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it would pilot and evaluate the vaccine in real-life settings, thanks to funding from The Global Fund; UNITAID; and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Pending results of these pilot tests, WHO will determine whether to deploy the vaccine on a wider scale.

7. New global health technologies advance through the pipeline

Over the past year, several other promising new health innovations have moved through the development pipeline and one step closer to reaching the hands of patients:

  • Two important health tools—a novel, affordable oral cholera vaccine developed by the International Vaccine Institute, and the Woman’s Condom developed by PATH and partners—received WHO prequalification this year, paving the way for their procurement by UN agencies and other international procurement organizations.
  • Two new rapid diagnostic tests for the neglected tropical diseases onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis were launched this year. Developed by PATH, these tests provide results in just 30 minutes and can be stored at a wide range of temperatures.
  • Development has begun for an affordable therapy for hepatitis C. In 2013, the world’s first cures for hepatitis C hit the US market, however, treatment remains out of reach for many patients due to the high price tag. This year, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative announced it would begin testing an alternative therapy in phase 2 and 3 clinical trials, with a guarantee from the manufacturer that, if successful, the entire regimen will be sold for no more than US$294.

As 2017 begins, it is time for the global health community to redouble our efforts to make sure this vital progress in global health innovation continues to ensure that people around the world will have access to lifesaving and life-improving health technologies.


This guest post was written by GHC Member Realizing Global Health.


Realizing Global Health Staff Member Elise Yousoufian works on a report.

Since 2007, Realizing Global Health (RGH) has been a partner on the U.S. government–funded project Grant Management Solutions (GMS). GMS is led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), along with 28 other organizations. In GMS, RGH’s role has been to provide the lead staff for project documentation and communications and to source consultants who provide short-term technical support to country coordinating mechanisms (CCMs) and principal recipients (PRs), two groups of grantees of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. For the last three years, RGH’s staff member on GMS has been overseeing the production of over 120 trip reports and other project documents each year, demonstrating how a well-organized, collaborative approach that integrates communications goals with overall organizational goals can bring about many desirable results.

One guiding principle of RGH is the use of the three C’s of communication, collaboration, and coordination. RGH has provided a vital role in the communication and coordination of reporting on the GMS project. As part of the GMS team, RGH, represented by Elise Yousoufian, has been instrumental in producing high-quality, accurate, and relevant reports in English, French, Spanish and other languages.

The impact of the GMS project communications is most visible to the public in the PR Management Dashboard user guides that can be downloaded from the Global Fund website. GMS staff, including Ms. Yousoufian, and consultants wrote, edited, translated and reviewed many drafts of these documents; they are available in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. These manuals, which run some 135 pages each, are impressive because of their graphic and textual complexity.

What is not seen, however, is that the process of crafting high-quality reports and other documents advances the principles of country ownership, transparency, and respect because users of the manuals and readers of the reports in-country provide comments and corrections to draft documents that are then incorporated in the final editions. By making these contributions, the users and readers assert ownership of their own processes and accomplishments through clear and well-crafted reports.

Ms. Yousoufian sums it up: “The relationships the communications team has with GMS’s clients sends good messages about GMS. Everyone has to represent GMS well, even if we’re not providing direct technical support. That’s part of effective communications.” RGH believes that effective project communications are integral to other efforts to achieve impact in development, and that effective communications, while often complicated and time consuming, are an integral part of effective development. Effective communications comprise not only the dissemination of information, but also the sharing and cultivation of knowledge. RGH recognizes that developing materials and writing effective reports take time and require clear goals, proper review, and adherence to standards and deadlines. However, as Ms. Yousoufian and the team at GMS have shown, the result is worth the effort; a well-managed process maximizes the impact of the final product.

Global Health in 2017: New Year, New Narrative

This blog was written by Loyce Pace, MPH, President & Executive Director of Global Health Council

Over the past several weeks since I’ve joined Global Health Council (GHC), I’ve had a number of conversations with our members and partners. Many of those discussions centered around one key question: “What’s next for global health?” It seems we are at an inflection point as a community, one at which we recognize a greater need for attention and resources alongside the growing demand for efficiencies and impact. Our challenge doesn’t change; in fact, it is threefold:

  • Finish the fight for priorities that have tangible endpoints on the horizon
  • Tackle head-on neglected problems that threaten to undermine progress we’ve made
  • Know what we don’t know, and plan accordingly

This challenge is purposely broad so that it reflects the various interests and objectives of our diverse membership. That way, we can speak with one voice about the road ahead for global health and what should be done to ensure we succeed. I heard from many of you how much you value coming together and the ability of GHC to build consensus across a seemingly-endless number of priorities and stakeholders. I was encouraged by how much people talked about the importance of community and holding the line in uncertain times. So, this is my plea: Let’s commit this year to working together and focusing on our common ground. I know we won’t agree on everything, but we are aligned in more ways than we often admit. It is much easier to focus on our differences. However, tempting as it might be to stay true to our usual silos, elevating the sector as a whole will yield dividends in the long-term. To be sure, specific messages and targets are a good thing and have a place in advocacy, but such issues will have little value without the foundation of a strong global health constituency – a group of us committed to and driven by the same end goal.

What is that goal? We have a global 2030 agenda that calls for equitable health and wellness worldwide. And, yes, that is what we ultimately hope to achieve. But what about today? What message do we need to drive home and what outcomes do we want as a result? For now, it is less about the “what” or even “how” and more a matter of “why.” Why is improving global health so important? Why do we try to address it the way we do? Why should anyone else care? These are fundamental questions we must answer not only for ourselves but particularly for those unfamiliar with our incredible history and success. Global health works. Period. It works for individuals and countries. It works for organizations and corporations. It works for societies and economies. These are the messages we should translate early and often this year. It’s a basic but critical mantra that reflects both our passion and purpose. It sets the tone for a new narrative in global health, one that inspires us to continue working for the benefit of those we serve, and motivates others to join us in our efforts. That way, we all win.

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Health

Domestic violence is a widely recognized and prevalent health and social problem: more than 1 in 3 women globally experience domestic violence (DV) in their lifetime. What is often less discussed, however, is the extent of the connection between DV and short- and long-term physical and mental health and substance use.  In 2016, John Snow, Inc. published a literature review to highlight the impacts of DV on these critical aspects of health. This infographic captures their key findings.

Health For All: What’s Next for a Movement Hitting its Stride?

This blog was written by Michael Myers, Managing Director, The Rockefeller Foundation and originally appeared on the organization’s website.


If the events of 2016 have taught us anything, it’s that we cannot know for sure what tomorrow will bring. But change has a way of illuminating those things about which we are certain. As a new year dawns, my conviction that every country can and must accelerate progress toward universal health coverage has never been stronger.

We can because political momentum and grassroots demand for universal health coverage (UHC) is growing, finally catching up to the evidence that universal health coverage is a smart investment and achievable goal everywhere.

We must because health system gaps jeopardize the lives and finances of hundreds of millions of people. That is true everywhere—especially where conflict, climate shocks, and disease outbreaks persist.

This time last year, I asked you to keep an eye on three things that could shape the health for all movement in 2016: (1) Japan’s G7 presidency; (2) the Sustainable Development Goal indicators for universal health coverage; and (3) country leadership.

Encouragingly, we’ve seen victories and positive steps forward across all three fronts:

But that wasn’t all. The Elders — a group of influential leaders convened by Nelson Mandela—launched a UHC campaign. Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, formally announced the establishment of the International Health Partnership for UHC 2030, a new global mechanism to drive UHC coordination, advocacy, and accountability. The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to announce a new grant to this mechanism, to ensure that the vision of health for all is met with equally ambitious action.

And today, on the third annual Universal Health Coverage Day, a coalition of 864 organizations in 117 countries took up the rallying cry of ‘Act with Ambition’ to show the world that we’re just getting started. UHC Day 2016 has already broken records, with 80 events in 33 countries, and more than 120 million calls for ‘Health For All’ on Twitter.

These wins were not guaranteed. They were hard-fought and hard-won by health and development advocates who don’t know the meaning of complacency.


Having made the case for universal health coverage, the question is no longer “if” but “when.”

As countries roll up their sleeves and advance new policies to achieve universal health coverage, I can’t deny that the problems they face will become more tactical and complex, the nuances more important. Doubts that we can achieve our goal may even grow.

What can be done?

Build Country Capacity: We’ve entered a new era of health and development where countries that were traditionally recipients of aid are creating their own paths toward universal health coverage. If we’re serious about achieving UHC and reducing out-of-pocket payments in the long run, we need to support countries at every income level to find ways to increase domestic public health budgets. An example of work at this level is the Joint Learning Network for UHC, which The Rockefeller Foundation helped establish, in which today 27 countries are working together in the hard work of building and strengthening their health systems to assist all of their citizens.  And more countries are joining each year.

Focus on the Intersections: Universal health coverage is inherently cross-cutting—it impacts (and is impacted by) economic opportunity, the environment, gender equity and so much more. That’s why we need to place a greater emphasis on the intersections of UHC: how it builds resilience against climate threats, how the private sector can contribute, how overlapping efforts—like work to expand access to primary health care—can be harnessed to help us achieve our shared goal.

Get Serious about Accountability: We’ve set the stage for meaningful UHC measurement by advocating for a strong SDG indicator 3.8.2 and the establishment of the International Health Partnership for UHC 2030. Now we need to execute. This starts by asking the tough questions: Are we truly reaching everyone, everywhere, with the quality, affordable health services they need and deserve? Are we keeping people healthy in the first place? If not, what can we do to change course? Strong measurement tools and communication across efforts will allow us to expand basic, essential health services to the 400 million people who currently lack them. We can and must do better.

We cannot know for sure what tomorrow brings. But we do know that money spent on health is an investment, not a cost. So let’s make good on our promise to the hundreds of millions of people who are depending on us to make health care accessible and affordable. Let us stand together and affirm that universal health coverage is achievable, that health is a human right, and that we can reach our goal of ‘Health for All’ if we continue to act with ambition, together.