HCWH Receives Gates Grand Challenge Grant

Health Care Without Harm announces today that it is aGrand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. HCWH Science and Policy Coordinator, Ruth Stringer, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Assessing environmental impacts of different small scale technologies for the disinfection of immunization waste”

“We are thrilled to be working with the Gates Foundation on this important initiative,” said HCWH President and Co-Founder Gary Cohen. “A recent study found that health care waste has a negative impact on the health of about half the world’s population. Figuring out how to safely manage immunization waste is particularly tricky because immunization campaigns often take place in isolated rural areas without much infrastructure.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. Ruth Stringer’s project is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”

To receive funding, Ruth Stringer and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10will be accepted through November 7, 2012.

This project will focus on immunization waste in Nepal. The usual disposal route for immunization waste there, and in many other countries, is open burning or burial. This is not as simple as it seems: sparks from burning can spread to grass roofs during the dry season; in the rainy season, burning can be difficult and burial is hampered by the very high water table, or simple lack of space. Burning also causes pollution, can harm human health and destroy the materials that the syringes and packaging are made of, a lot of which are recyclable.

Ruth Stringer and HCWH will be working with Health Care Foundation Nepal (HECAF), and the World Health Organization, while basing the investigation at Bir Hospital and the National Kidney Center, both of which have led the way in environmentally friendly waste treatment in Nepal. Researchers will gather and test different types of syringes used in immunization programs to determine the recycling value of the materials they are made of, and identifying the most economical way of disinfecting them using different autoclave (steam sterilization) methods. Environmental and economic benefits will be compared with the current practices. The project will produce a decision making tool which will foster informed decisions about the safest and most sustainable way to dispose of immunization waste.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 700 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.