Several Duke University organizations, led by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center (GHIC), are partnering with  the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other global development organizations to evaluate the Saving Lives at Birth program and help organizations scale up maternal and newborn health innovations more quickly and sustainably.

Saving Lives at Birth:  A Grand Challenge for Development seeks groundbreaking prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in poor, hard-to-reach communities around the time of delivery.  The effort is funded by a partnership of international development organizations including USAID, the Government of Norway (Norad), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada (funded by the Government of Canada), the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

The Duke Global Health Innovation Center, the Duke Global Health Institute’s Evidence Lab and the Duke Center for International Development will receive up to $2.8 million over five years to evaluate the impact of the Saving Lives at Birth program and innovations, including their health and economic impact. They will also analyze the program and its portfolio in real time over the course of the next three to five years. This program will be co-led by Krishna Udayakumar, MD, MBA, director of the GHIC, and Joy Noel Baumgartner, PhD, director of the DGHI Evidence Lab. At DCID, efforts will be led by Dr. Fernando Fernholz and DCID associate in research Siddharth Dixit

“This is a great opportunity where Duke was able to bring together different capabilities in evaluation, innovation, and analysis of the economics of international development to help Saving Lives at Birth understand the program’s effectiveness and return on investment to date,” said Udayakumar.

“We look forward to examining how Saving Lives at Birth investments have impacted innovations that seek to move the needle on reducing maternal and neonatal deaths as well as how the program has influenced the global maternal and newborn health innovation landscape more broadly,” said Baumgartner.

The GHIC, along with non-profit global innovator and entrepreneur support organization VentureWell, will also receive up to $10.5 million from USAID over three years to accelerate the scaling and impact of dozens of innovations funded by the Saving Lives at Birth program over the past seven years. Together, they will provide tailored support and access to networks to help them bring innovations to scale.

“We will be working to build the capacity of dozens of grantees in the Saving Lives at Birth portfolio so that they are better prepared to implement innovations at scale in a sustainable way and to provide the organization as a whole with insights to refine its own scaling strategy,” added Udayakumar, who co-leads this new program with Laura Sampath, Vice President of Programs at VentureWell.

“Global health at Duke aims to have impact”, said Duke Global Health Institute director Chris Plowe, MD, MPH. “Working across multiple disciplines to evaluate effectiveness and strengthen capacity for Saving Lives at Birth is exactly what is needed to ensure that this critical work is successful and sustainable.”

“Increasing the value of global health innovations is the kind of work that Duke University does well, and is a focus of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy,” said Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director of Duke-Margolis.  “We are proud to support GHIC’s work on identifying valuable innovations, and on improving global policies to scale and sustain them.”


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