December 19, 2010
In January 2010, the solar autoclave was recognized by the WHO’s Call for Innovative Technologies. This competition sought to identify accessible and affordable technologies that were developed to address health problems and improve the quality of life for individuals in low-income and developing countries.
In September, the World Health Organization hosted their First Global Forum on Medical Devices in Bangkok, Thailand. Conference participants included winners from the Call for Innovative Technologies, policy makers, researchers, and clinicians. I had the chance to attend this event on behalf of Salud del Sol, Inc.; Innovations in International Health at MIT; and the solar autoclave research team. It was an incredible conference to be a part of and an honor for the solar autoclave to be recognized among such creative technologies as the remote anemia monitoring system from Biosense and Mark Zimmerman from Nepal, who is developing a simplified anesthesia unit for remote settings.
Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO, captivated the group of 300 plus conference participants with her inauguration address, which I would describe as the most inspirational locker room speech for global health:
We are here, in part, because of concern about runaway health care costs and pressure to contain these costs. As noted in a 2007 World Health Assembly resolution, health technologies, and medical devices in particular, represent an economic as well as a technical challenge to health systems.
That resolution expressed concern about the waste of resources caused by investments in medical devices that do not meet high-priority needs, are incompatible with existing infrastructures, are irrationally or incorrectly used, or do not function efficiently. This tells us some of the pitfalls.
But we are also here because the unquestionable benefits of medical devices are so unevenly distributed. I wonder if there is any other area that illustrates so profoundly the great difference in the ability of wealthy and developing countries to reap the benefits of advances in medicine and technology?
We are looking forward to continued conversation and relationship-building opportunities from this conference!