What is a Grand Challenge?

A grand challenge is a specific critical barrier that, if removed, would help solve an important health problem in the developing world, with a high likelihood of global impact through widespread implementation.

The first grand challenge was introduced over a century ago in Germany, when Dr. David Hilbert issued 23 challenges in mathematics. By doing so, he inspired a generation of mathematicians. His efforts were successful: nearly all of his challenges have been solved. Grand Challenges Canada will bring the same focus and energy to defining and addressing global health issues.

Grand Challenges Canada works closely with its Scientific Advisory Board, Board of Directors, and key experts and decision-makers in the area of global health to identify and select Grand Challenges. Grand Challenges Canada’s Board of Directors approves all Grand Challenge topics.


Historically, some of the greatest impacts in global health were from innovators who tried out bold ideas. The discovery of vaccines over 200 years ago and of antibiotics in the last century are classic examples of unorthodox thinking that resulted from bold ideas that have had big impact and saved millions of lives… more


The onset of labour marks the start of a high-risk period for both mother and baby that does not ease until at least 48 hours after birth. During this short period of time, an estimated 150,000 maternal deaths, 1.6 million neonatal deaths, and 1.2 million stillbirths occur annually. The goal of the Saving Lives at Birth program is to leapfrog conventional approaches for prevention and treatment services to women and newborns in poor, rural communities…more


Over 200 million children fail to reach their cognitive potential, as a result of exposure to poverty-related risk factors – malnutrition, infection, poor management of pregnancy and birth, and lack of stimulation and nurturing – in the first thousand days (from conception to two years of age). This failure serves to lock societies into poverty. Effective, targeted interventions may unlock the potential of the next generation of children to solve the problems burdening their societies…more


Mental disorders contribute to 13% of the global burden of disease, with almost three quarters of this burden occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Mental health disorders make the largest contribution to the overall burden of non-communicable diseases, surpassing both cardiovascular disease and cancer. Moreover, mental health disorders are risk factors and/or are associated with both communicable and non-communicable diseases, and represent a leading cause of disability globally…more


In September 2011, the United Nations hosted a high-level meeting on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and associated risk factors. One such risk factor is hypertension or high blood pressure, which is a major contributor to the growing global pandemic of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Every year, the World Health Organization estimates that hypertension causes 7.5 million deaths globally…more


Access to effective and timely diagnosis is critical for the successful treatment of disease. In the developing world, diagnostic tools are often not available to assess an individual’s health status, risks of various illnesses and treatment options. In addition, little information about the burden of disease is available to guide population health decisions. These factors severely limit the care that people receive. Point-of-care diagnostics that are sensitive, specific, affordable, simple to use and amenable to use in low-resource settings have demonstrated tremendous promise for bringing timely and accurate diagnoses to people living in developing countries…more