More children could be saved from death if innovations in maternal and child health were adopted by governments, a medical technologist has said.
Speaking during the recent African Union conference on maternal, newborn and child health in Nairobi, Path Country Director Anthony Okoth said the organisation was working with innovators to ensure that their products don’t just sit in labs and workshops, where they are not being used to make a difference in healthcare.
“Clinical evidence is needed to convince governments and other investors to take up medical technologies,” added Dr Okoth, noting that nearly half of medical technology start-ups do not survive past the four-year mark.
He called for different approaches to ensure that innovations are put to use.
“We do not consider market needs. What can we do differently so that the innovations are translated into marketable technologies?”
Dr Okoth, pointed out that innovations such as the human milk bank project to be set up at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi, have the potential to improve child health, while the heat stable fast-dissolving oxytocin tablet can save mothers from bleeding to death after birth.
Timely use of the oxytocin tablet can save at least 146,000 lives by 2030 and lead to a nine per cent reduction in maternal deaths from excessive bleeding after birth. The tablet would be particularly useful in areas without enough skilled health workers, refrigeration equipment or safe injection equipment.
Another innovation that can be used to improve healthcare in resource-poor settings is the protein creatinine dipstick test used to detect pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy).
In 2106, there were 22.6 deaths of babies for every 1,000 live births, and 35.6 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births, signalling a decrease in child deaths since 1967. For further reductions, various interventions and innovations need to be applied.
One such intervention – the free maternal healthcare programme – has seen the number of women giving birth assisted by a skilled birth attendant rise, and contributed to a reduction in infant mortality, according to Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko.
“We need to be accountable for every mother and child in our care. It is not acceptable for mothers and children to die from preventable causes,” said Dr Kioko, adding that the government would hold health workers accountable for every child who dies of preventable causes.