Seeking Today’s Midwifery Pioneers for Johnson & Johnson’s GenH Challenge 

This post was written by Alice Lin Fabiano, Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact.

A good idea can come from anyone, anywhere.

Looking at the history of midwifery, we see that good ideas often come from people providing care every day in communities and clinics around the world. The ways in which midwives have pioneered a new idea or adapted an approach – and augmented health and wellness as a result – cannot be overlooked.

It was Marie-Anne Boivin, a French midwife, who invented the speculum used to assist childbirth. She also wrote multiple textbooks that became standard for midwifery students, and is cited as the first person to use a stethoscope to listen to the fetal heartbeat. And Mary Breckinridge, a nurse-midwife in the rural United States, saw the need for training and increased standards of care, and acted to create the Frontier Nursing Service. FNS went on to train hundreds of midwives and strengthened the concept and practice of nurse-midwifery in the United States.

These midwifery pioneers saw a need, and based on their intimate knowledge of both community and care, they acted and created something new to meet local health needs. They innovated.

We know that today, more and more women and infants are getting the care they need to survive and thrive. Still, every day, 800 women and nearly 8,000 newborns die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. There is much more that can – and must – happen to support and champion midwives as they save even more lives.

The question is: what will it take to get there?

At Johnson & Johnson, we know the ingenuity required to change the trajectory of health for communities will not come from the boardroom; it will come from the delivery room, the classroom, the clinic, or even a household. To change the realities of health, the world needs the insight, leadership, and creativity of everyday innovators on the front lines of care. In short, the world needs midwives.

Today at ICM, Johnson & Johnson is proud to open the GenH Challenge – a global social venture competition designed to seek out and incentivize novel, breakthrough solutions to persistent health challenges. As of today, the submission period is open – and we need the partnership of many great minds and hearts at ICM to make this happen. We’re calling on midwives, as front line changemakers, to share locally-tailored, globally- scalable ideas as together we seek to create the healthiest generation – “GenH.”

Executive Director Alice Lin Fabiano demonstrates mMitra, a mobile health innovation platform developed in partnership with ARMMAN, USAID, Johnson & Johnson, United Nations Foundation & BabyCenter.

Midwives played an integral role in the development of the GenH Challenge. Last year, I met with 20 midwives in Nairobi to discuss the challenges and opportunities they experienced while delivering care in their communities. We heard stories of the difficulties midwives working in low-resource settings experience. We also heard great stories of triumph and perseverance.  Stories about delivering quality care against all odds, and efforts to inspire young women to pursue midwifery. Midwives told us about their desire to not only be heard, but to be empowered to implement change.

We’ve listened to you, and we are excited to help provide the spark of investment you need to advance that vision of change. The GenH Challenge requires that all teams submitting ideas include a representative from the front lines of care. This specific prerequisite is because we fundamentally believe no sustainable change will be reached without the insight and knowledge individuals like midwives provide.

Quite simply, you are why the GenH Challenge is placing its big bet on the power that lives on the front lines of care.

In our 130 years, we’ve learned that the next big idea can come from anyone. The GenH Challenge builds on a legacy of innovating and developing solutions for people on the front lines of care. With $1 million in prizes, winning teams will receive not only financial resources, but technical assistance from Johnson & Johnson to ensure that you, the changemakers, are able to turn ideas and vision into reality. We invite our fellow pioneers of ingenuity to apply their entrepreneurial spirit as the lever to achieve health equity.

So what’s your answer to our question? Tell us.