Research News

‘Saving Lives at Birth’ finalists include UB researcher

By DAVID J. HILL

Published July 21, 2015

A proposal from UB is among the 53 finalists seeking funding through an internationally backed program aimed at reducing maternal and newborn deaths in some of the poorest places on Earth.

Pavani Ram, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health and director of the Office of Global Health Initiatives in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, is in Washington, D.C., this week for the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge Development XChange. Ram’s proposal focuses on developing a pathway to increase the use of an antibacterial as an antiseptic hand-cleanser to prevent neonatal infections in Bangladesh.

The public is encouraged to vote on the 53 finalists.

Votes can be cast until 5 p.m. on July 22. Click here to read Ram’s proposal.

To vote, users must create an account and log in, then click on the project name from the full list and click the star-shaped icon at the bottom of the description.

According to Ram’s proposal, nearly a quarter of the 2.8 million deaths that occur annually during the neonatal period — the first month after babies are born — are attributable to infections, and mothers can prevent these infections and death by washing their hands and encouraging others in the household to do the same. Ram’s previous research in Bangladesh showed that a waterless, chlorhexidine-based intervention increased hand-cleansing five-fold among mothers and among other household contacts by 10 to nearly 40 times.

At scale, she says, chlorhexidine hand-cleansing has the potential to reduce infections, improve the quality of newborn care and save hundreds of thousands of newborn lives around the world.

More than 750 applications were submitted for this year’s Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge, which is backed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenge Canada and England’s Department for International Development. The Grand Challenge program has funded 81 projects since being launched in 2011.