The development community is increasingly delivering results-oriented and truly effective solutions to the problems of the developing world. At the same time, the developed world is suffering from problems brought on by socioeconomic disparities and budgetary uncertainties. Given these darker days ahead for the developed world, there is no reason for the development community to exclude richer countries from some of its more innovative development excercises.
Examples of developed-country needs that could be met by applying some of the approaches the development community is applying in developing countries abound.
Take the issue of combatting maternal and neonatal deaths. A high-profile U.S. Agency for International Development-led coalition that ranks the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank as members, has introduced a new grant scheme to solict innovative ideas to combat deaths during delivery around the world. Faced with the challenge of 150,000 maternal deaths, 1.6 million neonatal deaths, and 1.2 million stillbirths each year, the initiative is soliciting proposals that are “off the beaten track” to find new prevention and treatment solutions.
Meanwhile in the United States, the maternal mortality rate is higher than in 40 other nations. Further, the U.S. states with higher preterm birth rates are often the same states with lower average incomes and rates of health insurance coverage. Even with such startling statistics, there has been a battle in the United States to secure fairly priced drug treatments to combat maternal mortality.
In Europe, grant schemes such as the pioneering Eurostars programme from the Directorate General for Research and Innovation are few and far between and may become fewer following the budget cuts of many of the European administrations.
The initiatives of the development community, now more than ever, should be assessed and, where possible, applied to developed countries. There is nothing stopping us from taking the skills, knowledge, innovations and systems that we export and applying them within the borders of the developed world; the lessons learned from interventions in developing countries are an asset that we can and should use to our advantage.