A new vision for the health care innovation 'Oscars'

Living Goods, a social enterprise that sells lifesaving health products and uses health promoters to teach how families can improve their health, is one of the winners of the second edition of the Healthcare Innovation Award. Photo by: Living Goods

GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Save the Children hope to evolve their relationship with the winners of the so-called “Oscars” for health care innovation into a more strategic one in the coming years, according to a top official at the pharmaceutical giant.

The partners announced today the winners of the Healthcare Innovation Award’s second edition. The University of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa and ColaLife Zambia each took home $370,000, the former for a mobile app that can help ensure the quality of breastmilk donated to human milk banks, and the latter for a low-cost diarrhea treatment kit. The University of Nairobi, which proposed a card that tracks vaccinations and rewards mothers with farm product discounts, and Uganda’s Living Goods, which looks to expand its program that uses health promoters to teach how families can improve their health and sell lifesaving health products such as bed nets, received $120,000 each.

The second Healthcare Innovation Award focused on innovations that could address under-5 mortality. According to Ramil Burden, vice president for Africa and developing countries at GSK, already the organizers are mulling over possible themes, including mHealth, for the next round.

The winners were chosen among 106 applicants, up from just more than 70 in the first round. Burden likewise noted a significant improvement in the quality of submissions that the selection panel had a hard time picking out the winners.

Choosing the four winners then, he added, boiled down to which solutions showed the most promise for sustainability and scalability. The selection panel looked at whether the innovation is integrated into the whole health care system and can be adopted widely as well as whether organizations have partners and other sources of income so that the award “doesn’t come as a make-or-break.”

For those that didn’t make it to the roster of winners, Burden has a bit of good news. Such organizations can try anew and in fact one of the winners in the second round, which Burden didn’t name, had a failed bid in the first but used the organizers’ feedback to improve its proposal.

“We give them feedback why they didn't make it; it's not because the proposal wasn't brilliant but it was because but there were a couple [of submissions] that had slightly different things which we felt were more impactful,” Burden said.

There won’t be any awarding ceremony for the winners. But GSK and Save the Children intend to organize gatherings at the end of the year or early 2016 where winners from both rounds will talk and explain their innovations in front of an audience in the United Kingdom and United States.

Beyond that, the two seek a deeper relationship with the winners. They hope to continue the conversation with these innovators and see where GSK and Save the Children can help them beyond the grants and recognition. That could be in the form of advice and expertise, say for instance in helping them with the time-consuming activity of registering medicines and devices in other countries.

“If you're a small organization, you don't have that capability; why would you do it yourself? Why won't you go to a medical or a pharmaceutical company and say could you help us with this,” Burden said. “Well they haven't come to us and ask us that sort of thing. But that is sort of thing that when we could help them with.”

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About the author

  • Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability, and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.