What does boosting sustainable energy access in the developing world have to do with improving global health? As it turns out, a lot.

The Impact of Energy on Global Health

Maurizio Vecchione, IV’s Senior Vice President of Global Good and Research, made this point strongly as he spoke recently to the second annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum on the Energy, Women and Children’s Health panel. Maurizio pointed out that Global Good, a collaborative effort between Bill Gates and IV to solve challenges in the developing world, works tirelessly not only to improve primary care and healthcare delivery, but also to enhance health technologies to run on low-resource or intermittent power.

Why is this important? Because energy will save lives. In just one minute, as Maurizio pointed out, 21 newborn children die around the world, in part because of a lack of access to oxygen. To help address this problem, Global Good is working to develop a more affordable oxygen concentrator that can run in low-resource areas to help more infants survive their first days.

The electricity issue is also drastically increasing rates of maternal mortality, particularly in cases of postpartum hemorrhaging. Postpartum hemorrhaging, the leading cause of maternal death, can usually be successfully treated with basic medication. But the medication requires refrigeration, and refrigeration in the developing world is typically powered by electricity. This is one of the many issues that Global Good’s passive storage device, Arktek™, addresses. Arktek can keep vaccines and drugs like oxytocin, medication often recommended to stop a hemorrhage, at the appropriate temperature for up to 35 days without power.

Global Good also conceived of the Arktek to help close the vaccination gap, a striking reality that leaves one in five children worldwide vulnerable to disease for which they could be immunized. By making vaccines available to areas with limited to no power, the device can start to break down at least one barrier to more widespread vaccination in developing countries.

Because lack of electricity is a widespread issue, Global Good is also focused on developing a solar-driven Arktek, low cost and effective screening tests for human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a leading cause of cervical cancer, and improved power supply for electric coagulation devices for HPV treatment. Its work in all of these areas is currently featured as part of the Sustainable Energy for All Clean Energy is Life campaign, which aims to reduce mortality in the developing world through increased access to sustainable energy.

There is no doubt that progress has been made. But there is much work left to complete. For our part, Global Good will continue to work to improve technologies that save lives even when electricity is intermittent or entirely unavailable.

Want to learn more about Global Good? Check out its projects to mitigate disease threats, improve diagnostic testing, increase agricultural productivity, and so much more. And don’t forget to stay up to speed on the worldwide effort to improve energy access via the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All


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