Guest Author

Lorin Kavanaugh-Ulku is Sr. International Development Consultant at DAI. Lode Roels is Press Officer at Grand Challenges Canada.

What does a garage mechanic from Argentina, a team of innovators from University of British Columbia, and a group of doctors in Kenya have in common?  They are all pushing the boundaries of innovation to save the lives of women and newborns during their most vulnerable hours — from the time of labor to the 48 hours after a baby is born. And they will be in Washington, DC this week for the Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange, world’s preeminent maternal and newborn health innovations Marketplace and Forum.

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Grand Challenges Canada (funded by the Government of Canada), USAID,  the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,  and DFID have joined together to launch Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development, to find the tools and approaches to help mothers and newborns during their most vulnerable hours.

Through the “Muskoka Initiative”, the Government of Canada has been a world leader in promoting the health and reducing mortality rates of women and children in developing countries. In May of this year, Prime Minister Harper convened “Saving Every Woman, Every Child: Within Arm’s Reach,” a high level summit to help ensure that the issue remains a global priority. The Saving Lives at Birth partnership serves as an ideal platform to work on this goal of eliminating preventable deaths among women, newborns and children in resource-low settings.

Now in its fourth year, the Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange kicks off in the U.S. capital and will culminate in the public event on August 1, 2014. Over 95 innovators, including the 52 finalists from the Round 4 call for innovations, will come together to compete, exchange ideas, share their unique innovations, and find inspiration.

The danger that women and newborns face during and right after birth is staggering: every two minutes, a women dies in childbirth, and in sub-Saharan Africa, women are 136 times more likely to die than in developed countries. Significantly lowering or impacting these numbers requires new and inventive approaches to make lasting progress. Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development seeks out these pioneering ideas that innovate on health science/technology, service delivery, and/or demand.

This year’s 52 finalists have been selected out of hundreds of applications as the most promising – and groundbreaking – concepts to tackle maternal and newborn deaths. These innovators will travel to Washington, DC to present their ideas. They will be joined by current Saving Lives at Birth awardees such as:  Jorge Odon – the Argentine car mechanic that has developed an innovative assisted delivery device; Peter von Dadelszen, a B.C. doctor that introduced a smart phone platform to predict the likelihood of adverse outcomes from pre-eclampsia in low-resource settings; and Dr. Levente L. Diosady (University of Toronto), who is fortifying commonly consumed foods – such as salt and tea –to prevent infant and mother mortality due to anemia.

At the open to the public Marketplace, held the morning of August 1, innovators – both Round 4 finalists and current grantees- will showcase their devices, tools, programs, and ideas. Immediately following the Marketplace, the public is invited to hear from out-of-the-box thinkers and entrepreneurs and learn which innovation was nominated to receive the People’s Choice Award, the Peer Choice Award, and nominations for Round 4 awards.

No matter where you are located in the world, you can join in and participate in the fourth Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange.

  1. Check out all 52 finalists on the Saving Lives at Birth website. Here, you can meet innovators from around the world and in all types of organizations, from non-profits, to universities, faith-based organizations, start-up companies, and more. Read about all their innovations and how they plan to mark themselves as game changers in maternal and newborn health.
  2. Vote on your favorite innovation for the People’s Choice Award, and stay tuned for the results on August 1.
  3. Keep tabs on the DevelopmentXChange through social media. On Twitter, follow tweets @GCDSavingLives #DevX2014 or @Gchallenges. Keep up-to-date via the Saving Lives at Birth blog, and don’t forget to check the Saving Lives at Birth innovator page following the DevelopmentXChange for new videos on the selected grantees!
  4. Join us for the 2014 DevelopmentXChange Marketplace in Washington, DC on August 1 between 9:00 to 12:00 pm. Register for the Marketplace here.
  5. Stay tuned and check in to the Saving Lives at Birth website on and after August 1 for additional information about the 2014 award nominees and videos from the DevelopmentXChange. To receive automatic updates, sign up for the newsletter.

We encourage you to post your questions and comments about this blog post on our Facebook page Grand Challenges Canada and on Twitter @gchallenges.