Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

New Global Health Center@MIT: Medical Innovation for the Next Four Billion

There has been a major boom (dare I say, even a bubble?) in global health degree programs and organizations at universities in the US. To a much lesser degree there also has been an associated growth in university based centers that are action oriented. There is one in particular (MIT center for Innovation in International Health) that I would like to highlight because they have tremendous potential and a great set of leaders. The other program I just heard about, Global Resolve, is at Arizona State University (more info at the bottom).

Jose over at Little Devices that Could is playing a major role in the new MIT international health outfit which already has several products in the pipeline. From his blog:

“IIH is a collaborative research program that spans across MIT Departments and brings in partners from around the country and around the world to create a rich multidisciplinary environment to launch medical technology for the next four billion.” (For more discussion in this area see

One of the founders is Macarthur Genius award winner Amy Smith. You can view her TED video here. A quick digression on Prof Smith, her bio from TED: Amy Smith designs cheap, practical fixes for tough problems in developing countries. Among her many accomplishments, the MIT engineer received a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2004 and was the first woman to win the Lemelson-MIT Prize for turning her ideas into inventions.

If you know of new innovations in global health, Jose would love to hear about it, you can email us or him. Unlike the vast majority of other actors in the global health sector, I get the impression that IIH is all for “high-risk” and truly innovative projects that can break the mold and solve problems today. This reminds me of the DARPA model. I’ll let you read about the fascinating history and structure of DARPA at wikipedia – but just note that DARPA played a role in bringing us the internet, GPS, and speech translation because of this philosophical approach of investing in high risk ideas. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a $3 billion slush fund to produce innovative global health breakthroughs? Yes, we still need coordinated public health programs and health system infrastructure development, but the stuff that could come out of the MIT center is also a major part of the picture. Besides DARPA the other entity that came to mind is the Pioneers division at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The other thing I like about this effort is that they seem to be truly open to collaborating and connecting with other groups – so please email with any ideas you have.

Neat new other organization I just heard about, definitely check out what they are doing:

“GlobalResolve, is a social entrepreneurship program at ASU connecting students with projects designed to improve the lives of the rural poor in developing countries.” They are focused on sustainability and have 3 main projects:

  • Producing a smokeless stove system (clean burning stove)
  • Creating a water purification system in Ghana
  • A neurosurgery device to treat head injuries in South Africa’s rural hospitals

Several student alums from Global Resolve “launched a startup called Energy Derived, a company developing technologies to support the alternative energies market. Their first project is an algae de-watering system designed for the commercial production of algae bio-fuels”.

More information here: Social Entrepreneurs Develop Cleaner Alternative to African Wood-Burning Stoves


Written by Aman

July 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm

2 Responses

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  1. This is very good information on global health for next generation. very impressive article and gives good information about health

    Online Doctor Consultation

    September 17, 2008 at 12:46 am

  2. I am thrilled to see more attention to the issue of global health. This is a very good thing.

    Alanna Shaikh

    July 18, 2008 at 12:40 pm

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