Clear PATH to Changes in Global Health
PATH leads the world in global health innovation. This international nonprofit organization creates high-quality vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices and system and service innovations. By targeting these five platforms, PATH takes a “multidimensional approach” to initiate the greatest amount of change.

PATH stands for the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health. It was founded in 1977 as the Program for the Introduction and Adaption of Contraceptive Technology, but since 1981 it has been renamed PATH.

PATH has offices and workstations across 22 countries and has spread its good work to more than 70 countries. It partners with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA, government ministries and other NGOs, foundations and local associations in the countries it serves.

PATH’s work in Africa began in 1978, when it developed family planning resources for mildly literate people in Asia. After that, PATH expanded the basis of its literacy program to Kenya, Botswana and Sierra Leone. Now, PATH’s work in Africa encompasses topics on AIDS, malaria, reproductive health, doctoral training in immunization and civilian education on preventative measures.

PATH focuses on women and children: feminine empowerment is also a critical area of focus. PATH’s products serve women who have no way of protecting themselves from HIV, cervical cancer and other sexually transmitted diseases. By working with local governments, PATH supports long-term efforts strengthening local health.

One way PATH educates on HIV prevention is through interactive street theater. Community productions called “magnet theaters” attract crowds in Kenya. They help nervous parents introduce and perhaps delve deeper into the topic of HIV prevention with their children.

A mother shared with PATH, “I do not know how to talk with my children about such things, so I encourage them to go to the magnet theater.” The performance’s messages tend to resonate amongst communities, creating open interest and support for leading healthier lives.

In Asia, PATH began its work manufacturing safer condoms and other contraceptives. They targeted rural communities that had not yet received that kind of care. Since then, PATH has expanded its offices to Cambodia, China, India, Myanmar and Vietnam. Across Asia, PATH facilitates discussion in tuberculosis and HIV education, influenza protection, pregnancy education and treatment and hepatitis prevention. Further, more programs focus on protecting against childhood pneumonia, diarrheal disease, diabetes, Japanese encephalitis, human papillomavirus and rotavirus, to name only a few.

Programs in Asia also pay attention to creating greater access to and availability of nutritious diets as well as the distribution of resources to girls concerning health and education.

PATH created the world’s first “woman-initiated” condom. The dual protection helps protect women from unintended pregnancies, maternal mortality and HIV infection, while also providing ease in insertion and removal, stability, comfort and a pleasant sensation.

Theatrics prove to be a great method for education throughout the world. In Nicaragua, puppet shows promote safe sex and educate on the risks of HIV and AIDS, early pregnancy and violence. This was only one part of PATH’s Entre Amigas project.

The “Between Girlfriends” project aimed to build confidence among young girls ages 10 to 14 years old. PATH designed activities likes all-girl soccer games, mother-daughter discussion groups, Nicaraguan Ministry of Health-led talks and even featured new characters in popular soap opera television shows to encourage dialogue.

One of PATH’s extraordinary products is the Ultra Rice® technology. The fortified grains are infused with essential vitamins and minerals to protect against micronutrient deficiencies.

The rice was made with taste in mind. Made with rice flour, iron, thiamin, zinc, vitamin A, folic acid and other B vitamins, Ultra Rice® increased iron levels in children ages 5 and 12 years old in India and lowered anemia levels by 80 percent in women in Mexico.

As made evident by its tech-driven products, PATH’s approach also requires entrepreneurial drive and long-term support for healthy habits.

Lin Sabones

Sources: PATH 1, Global Citizen, PATH 2, PATH 3, PATH 4, PATH 5, PATH 6
Photo: Fast Company

ricePATH, formerly known as the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, is an international nonprofit organization that focuses on developing innovative, high-impact and low-cost health solutions in more than 70 countries.

PATH attempts to address a wide breadth of health problems ranging from vaccines for bird flu, to cheap ways to heal broken bones, to developing practical ways to purify water. The organization focuses to a large extent on collaboration. They develop health solutions with the communities that will use them, keeping them in contact with the specific needs of the people they serve. According to their website, PATH “infuses innovation and collaboration into those solutions to ensure they work in poor as well as rich countries.”

PATH began in Seattle, Washington in 1977 with the goal of implementing new contraceptives into poor countries that needed them but could not afford them. Now PATH has expanded to include all health issues in developing countries.

Today, the innovators at PATH now spend their time trying to figure out how to meet basic health needs. In the face of this daunting task, the secret to operations at PATH is their specific and autonomous projects.

PATH is organized project by project with small teams gearing solutions towards very specific health issues in specific communities. A large portion of PATH staffers also come from the for-profit community, making it easier for PATH to forge partnerships and deals with commercial companies which, according to PATH’s website, “…are a critical and unique element of our approach.”

One significant health technology developed by PATH is their Ultra Rice. Ultra Rice is made from combining rice flour with essential micronutrients and then molding the product into a rice shape. These new fortified rice grains are typically blended with normal white rice to fight malnutrition in poor communities. By addressing things like iron deficiency, vitamin A deficiency, folic acid deficiency and zinc deficiency, Ultra Rice gives children in developing countries the opportunity to grow into health adults and become productive members of their communities.

Ultra Rice is just one example of how PATH is using innovative technologies to transform the developing world. The organization’s work is important given that, in many communities, solvable health issues like malnutrition are the biggest obstacles to development. Innovations like Ultra Rice give these communities the ability to overcome obstacles and rise out of poverty.

– Martin Drake

Source: PATH, XConomy