Today, West Africa faces the largest Ebola epidemic in history. Markets are empty. Schools are closed. Friends greet each other from a distance. As President Obama said yesterday at the United Nations:
From Guinea to Liberia to Sierra Leone, the alarm has been sounded, and United States is mobilizing a global response. We know how to stop this epidemic, but it will take ingenuity, speed, and cooperation. That is why President Obama announced a new Grand Challenge for Development to generate pioneering solutions that help health care workers provide better care in the midst of the epidemic.
Every day, courageous men and women are performing critical tasks that save lives and prevent the spread of the virus. Personal protective equipment (PPE)—the suits, masks and gloves the health care worker wears—is their primary protection, but it is also the greatest source of stress. In these hot and uncomfortable suits, health workers must administer to the patients and remove contaminated materials.
Announced at the Global Health Security Summit in Washington, D.C., this Grand Challenge for Development will unite the global community in the quest for ingenious ideas that deliver practical and cost-effective innovations in a matter of months, not years.
We need new ideas to help ensure that treatment sites, communal transport units, and burial sites do not become infection sources. We need new solutions that strengthen the safety and increase the comfort of the suits, from improving fabric design to measuring a health worker’s temperature and heart rate.
We need new ways to simplify clinical processes, including point-of-care diagnostics. And we need new tools that continue to create a safer clinical environment, including improving infection control and waste disposal. Taken together, these innovations will enable health workers to provide better care for those who are suffering.
Together with our international partners, we will translate the expertise and ingenuity of scientists, innovators, engineers, and students from across the globe into real solutions. With your bold thinking and engagement, we can give health workers the tools they need to win this fight.
To get involved, please visit: http://www.usaid.gov/grandchallenges/ebola
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Rajiv Shah is USAID Administrator. He tweets from @rajshah