In Face Of Global Economic Recession, Developing World Needs Low-Tech Health Innovations

“The developing world needs support for low-tech health innovations that do not compromise on effectiveness,” journalist Priya Shetty writes in this SciDev.Net opinion piece, adding that, against the backdrop of global economic recession and shrinking research and development (R&D) budgets in many developing countries, “a new movement of ‘frugal science’ is taking hold, in which researchers are hunting for the most cost-effective health technologies for developing countries.” Shetty writes, “Cost is rarely the only limiting factor; health technologies need to be ‘low-tech’ — as electricity supplies can be erratic, or hospital environments not always sterile, for instance — without being ‘low-spec,'” and continues, “Achieving this balance requires innovative thinking, which is why researchers from around the world are developing an evidence base for the most effective and innovative healthcare technologies for poorer countries.”

She highlights a report on frugal technologies, published in the Lancet earlier this month, “which identifies the specific needs of developing countries,” writing, ” Innovation is too often thought of in narrow terms, such as improving a drug or vaccine by tweaking its molecular make-up. But a key point that the report makes is that health technology needs innovation in process (the way a vaccination program is rolled out, say) as well in the product.” She writes, “Frugal innovation is already helping much of the developing world” and provides examples. She concludes, “Universities and research institutes could play their part by helping to assess healthcare technologies through simulation and modeling techniques. Innovation has much to offer the developing world, but the key is for it to be driven by the needs of the people whose lives it aims to improve” (8/15).