Heather Ignatius oversees PATH’s Advocacy and Public Policy Department and its work to influence global priority setting, enact policies and secure public resource allocation to bring evidence-based innovations and interventions to scale. A veteran advocate and public policy specialist, Ms. Ignatius leads a global team of advocates working to engage decision makers and influencers, strengthen advocacy coalitions and increase the use of evidence in policy making.
Ms. Ignatius joined PATH in 2012, to lead PATH’s US public policy portfolio. In this role she educated and engaged elected officials and executive branch agency leadership, created strategic partnerships with for-profit and non-governmental partners, and developed policy recommendations to strengthen US leadership and support for global health programs. PATH’s work has resulted in the adoption of dozens of national and subnational policies and significant increases of donor and domestic resources to expand access to critically needed health services and products and advance innovation for vulnerable populations around the globe.
Ms. Ignatius joined PATH from the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development where she led initiatives to create an enabling policy environment, mobilize resources, and engage key stakeholders to advance the organization’s mission of developing and ensuring access to new shorter-course TB regimens for people in low- and middle-income countries.
Prior to her experience in the health sector, Ms. Ignatius worked on a variety of international and social sector issues at the United Nations Foundation, the National Endowment of Democracy and the Women’s Research and Education Institute. A Silicon Valley native, she started her career in the tech sector, working for Cisco Systems.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, San Diego and a master’s degree from the Elliot School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.
In this guest post, Heather Ignatius—senior policy and advocacy officer at PATH—writes about a new bipartisan piece of legislation to accelerate progress towards ending preventable child and maternal deaths.
In this guest post, Heather Ignatius—senior policy and advocacy officer at PATH—writes about a new bipartisan piece of legislation to accelerate progress towards ending preventable child and maternal deaths. More than 30 diverse organizations including PATH are calling on members of Congress to support the legislation, and you can add your voice to the call by joining their virtual “chain” of people around the world who believe we must do all we can to #SaveMomandKids.
The Reach Act aims to accelerate an end to preventable maternal and child deaths. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki
Today Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a new bipartisan piece of legislation that could help save the lives of
women and children around the world. This legislation—the Reach Every Mother and Child Act (Reach Act)—aims to end preventable maternal,
newborn, and child deaths within a generation by putting into place US policies to reach more women and children with lifesaving programs and support
the development, introduction, and scale-up of high-impact interventions in low-income countries.
Reach Act reaffirms America’s commitment to end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths
In 2012, the United States, the governments of Ethiopia and India, and UNICEF led the Child Survival Call to Action,
committing to end preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035—a commitment that has since been endorsed by 175 partner governments around
the world. The Reach Act would make it the policy of the United States to make good on that promise and put in place a coordinated, whole-of-government
strategy to achieve it.
The legislation calls for the US to set ambitious, outcome-based targets for reducing child and maternal deaths and track and report progress toward
them annually. It also calls for improved coordination across US government agencies, establishes a maternal and child survival coordinator position
at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to oversee activities, and would expand the use of innovative financing mechanisms that
will help countries overcome financial hurdles and obtain more resources to strengthen health programs, ultimately moving countries towards greater
self-sustainability in confronting their own health challenges.
Reach Act ensures innovation is part of the US government strategy to achieve this aim
Improvements in maternal and child health have been one of the greatest success stories in international development. Since 1990, deaths of mothers
and children under the age of five worldwide have been nearly cut in half—meaning every day 17,000 more children live and 700 more mothers
survive childbirth compared to just two decades ago.
Central to that progress has been research and development (R&D) of new and innovative health products. For example, new vaccines, drugs, diagnostics,
and other health innovations have led to 4.2 million fewer child deaths in 2013 compared to 1990, according to a report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Advances in maternal and child health have been driven by the development of new approaches and innovative technologies. Many of these breakthroughs—such
as bed nets to prevent malaria, oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrheal disease, and antiretrovirals to treat HIV and AIDS—were supported
or piloted by US government funded programs, demonstrating the power of US investment in innovation to save the lives of mothers and children.
Ending preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths is an ambitious goal, but it’s also an achievable one—and investing in health innovation
can help us get there. According to the Lancet Commission on Investing in Health,
the world can achieve a “grand convergence”—reducing maternal and child deaths in low-income countries to low levels within a generation—by
increasing investment in the R&D of new technologies and the scale-up of existing technologies.
The Reach legislation would ensure that R&D is a critical part of the US approach to ending preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths. As
the lead US agency working in maternal, newborn, and child health, USAID has long placed global health R&D and innovation at the core of its
activities to end extreme poverty and build resilient societies. The agency has helped to support the development and introduction of a range of
affordable and cost-effective technologies including easy-to-use diagnostic tests for HIV and AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; innovative contraceptive
technologies; treatments to reduce neonatal infection and postpartum hemorrhage; and vaccines against leading childhood killers like meningitis.
The agency has sought to harness expertise and resources across sectors and geographies to catalyze the development of health technologies to improve
maternal and child health. Through programs like the Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development,
USAID has advanced innovative solutions for maternal and child health, such as simple pouches to deliver drugs to reduce mother-to-child transmission
of HIV and AIDS and devices to help babies take their first breath.
The Reach Act challenges policymakers at USAID and other US agencies to continue to think long-term about the role innovation could play in achieving
an end to preventable maternal, child, and newborn deaths.
The GHTC staff has joined the global chain to #SaveMomsandKids
Innovation will be necessary to bend the curve
Last year in its Acting on the Call report, USAID
articulated a roadmap to achieve the vision of ending preventable and maternal deaths in 24 priority countries, setting an interim milestone of
saving 15 million children and 600,000 women by 2020. If achieved, meeting this milestone would mean that US programs would be exceeding the impact
targets set in 2012. The development and introduction of new health technologies can further accelerate progress toward this goal—helping
us bend the curve more steeply and saving more lives, more rapidly.
Now is the time for Congress to turn ambition into action. The Reach Act can help us realize a world where every kid everywhere lives to celebrate
his or her fifth birthday and no mother dies as a result of pregnancy or childbirth.
Read a fact sheet about the legislation.
Watch a video of Sen. Collins and Coons introducing the legislation.
To support the legislation, join the social media campaign using the hashtag #SaveMomsandKids.
In this guest post, Heather Ignatius—senior policy and advocacy officer at PATH—writes about the new Global Development Lab at the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Lab was formally launched at an event in New York City earlier this month by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a briefing on the new USAID Global Development Lab.
The Lab—as it’s now referred to—aims to invent, test, and apply dramatically more cost efficient and impactful solutions to men, women,
and children so they can lift themselves out of extreme poverty. It will collaborate with many stakeholders—including entrepreneurs, the
private sector, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), universities, and science and research institutions—to incorporate science, technology,
innovation, and partnerships as a means to solve development challenges and improve the lives of millions of people in a short time span. The launch
of the Lab brings the tremendous science, technology, and innovation credentials America has to offer to the practice of development. This effort
will embed the principles of partnership and innovation into USAID’s DNA, allowing the agency to become a cutting-edge leader in development.
The Lab aims to invent, test, and apply dramatically more cost efficient and impactful solutions to men, women, and children so they can lift
themselves out of extreme poverty. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki
The Lab will bring together a diverse set of partners to “discover, incubate, and scale breakthrough development innovations” in many of the sectors
USAID works in, including health. There are eight stated areas of focus for the Lab: Food Security and Nutrition; Modernizing Food Assistance;
Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths; Energy Access; Water Solutions; Child Literacy; Financial Inclusion; Rights, Participation and Accountability;
and Humanitarian Response. Some of the agency’s key research programs, including the PEER Health Program and the Development Innovation Ventures initiative, will be housed within the Lab.
It is encouraging to hear that health will be one of the issues areas the Lab takes up, and many of the innovations highlighted by the Lab are in the
health arena—including products developed through USAID’s successful Saving Lives at Birth grand challenge. However, it should be
noted that the majority of USAID’s investments in global health research and development (R&D) currently sit outside the Lab’s structure.
As it moves from concept into operations, it will be important for USAID to ensure that the Lab is synergistic with the agency’s other global health
R&D efforts. It will also be important to maintain investment for innovations that sit outside the Lab. As the bedrock of many global health
successes, R&D is critical to developing the next generation of health tools that can prevent, treat, and one day halt existing and emerging
global health threats. For more than 25 years, PATH has worked with USAID to identify global health needs and adapt, design, develop, and advance
appropriate and affordable health technology solutions. By serving as the bridging agent between the public and private sectors, PATH has helped
advance more than 80 technologies tailored to low-resources settings with more than 100 private-sector collaborators that have matched federal
dollars two to one.
At the Lab’s launch, USAID’s leaders issued an open invitation to partners to help shape the Lab’s formation. We look forward to working with USAID
to realize the full potential of the Lab to accelerate innovation for health. It will not be possible to meet tomorrow’s development challenges
without innovation. New and effective health solutions must be part of that equation.
In this guest post, Heather Ignatius, senior policy and advocacy officer at PATH, writes about the important role US agencies play in advancing global health technologies.
In the field of global health, partnerships are often a primary key to success. The complexities of health, policy, and product development are technically
nuanced, but together with the US government, PATH and others are making great advances to adapt, develop, and introduce breakthrough technologies
across the health spectrum.
To demonstrate how essential US government’s contributions have been—and will continue to be—in improving global health through the development
and introduction of lifesaving technologies, we recently released three publications highlighting PATH’s work with the US Agency for International Development (USAID),
the US Department of Defense (DoD), and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
These collaborations complement the many other global health product development and introduction efforts spearheaded by other private- and public-sector
partners. Together, these contributions to improving global health will not only benefit people in developing countries, but also US military personnel
and US citizens traveling abroad. We hope that these examples inspire continued investment by the US government in global health research and development.
PATH partners with the US government to develop and adapt innovative global health technologies—including thermostable vaccines, injection
devices, and medicines—that safeguard the health of mothers and children, like these in Kenya. Credit: PATH/Evelyn Hockstein.
Developing innovative technologies in partnership with USAID
For more than 25 years, PATH has worked through the HealthTech program at USAID to identify health needs and then adapt, design, develop, and advance
appropriate and affordable health technology solutions. Through the HealthTech program, PATH has invented, designed, developed, or co-developed
85 technologies that are tailored to low-resource settings and can be manufactured locally. Examples include diagnostic tests for infectious diseases,
portable scales that help health workers screen newborns for low-birthweight status, the Uniject® injection system, and the SILCS diaphragm. HealthTech
technologies are in use throughout the world through partnerships with the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and commercial
Adapting and introducing diagnostic technologies for low-resource settings with HHS
With funding from the National Institutes of Health, PATH is advancing effective, low-cost, and easy-to-use diagnostic tools that can be used in low-resource
settings to identify HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases. These diagnostics improve people’s chances for a healthy recovery while
enabling health care workers to better track outbreaks of diseases. Together, PATH and HHS have also worked to increase the availability, accessibility,
and affordability of essential point-of-care diagnostic tests by assessing critical clinical needs, identifying innovative technologies, supporting
clinical testing, and creating training programs.
Developing new vaccine technologies with DoD
In collaboration with the US Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), PATH is developing and testing
new approaches for vaccines against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Shigella—two of the leading bacterial causes of
diarrheal disease worldwide. PATH, WRAIR, and NMRC are collaborating on preclinical and clinical studies as well as manufacturing activities related
to vaccine development. Additionally, PATH is working with NMRC, among other partners, to assess potential markets for low-cost and effective vaccines
and to demonstrate the opportunity for industry investment in developing these vaccines.
With funding from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, PATH is developing temperature-stable vaccine formulations to support DoD product development
efforts. These thermostable formulations will extend the shelf life of vaccines, making them ideal for storing and allowing them to be safely transported
and stored for extended periods of time outside of the “cold chain” of proper refrigeration. Thermostable vaccines are especially important for
remote areas of the world where limited or no electricity for temperature control makes it challenging to maintain vaccines’ potency.