Ambassador Jonathan Addleton's Speech at the Dasra Philanthropy Week

Saturday, March 5, 2016
Innovation and Partnerships

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you for inviting me here to speak today.  Dasra Philanthropy Week provides a great opportunity for philanthropists, innovators and community leaders to get together to take stock of progress and identify opportunities to work together on new and exciting projects that address development gaps. So thank you to the Dasra team for organizing this great event.

We’ve been talking about innovations and partnerships for the last few days now.  We’ve heard about innovative ideas that we hope will improve the lives of men, women and children in India.  I think we all agree that innovative solutions that improve access to quality and affordable health care for women and girls are vital to developing a more effective system of health nationwide.

India’s efforts to promote innovation and entrepreneurship were recently elevated by Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to the Start-Up India campaign.  The plan to reduce patent fees by 80 percent, offer tax concessions, and provide free legal support for individuals filing patents, are all progressive steps that can bolster innovation, and will prove to be a great advantage to India in the long run.

One assumption that I think we agree upon is that the development issues we are struggling with today require a collective, multi-stakeholder response.  Tuberculosis (TB), nutrition, maternal and newborn deaths – these are not problems that can be solved by government schemes or international donor projects alone. These development issues require collective action.

It is encouraging to see India’s large and vibrant private sector focusing on new approaches to improve social and development outcomes, working together with the public sector.  This is very important as the private sector can provide critical insights on market dynamics and new opportunities, while the public sector has the mandate to make these improvements sustainable.

I am particularly happy to see more and more innovators entering into the health space.  This is vital.  Despite good progress in health outcomes, India faces a complex set of development challenges with interrelated causes. According to the World Bank, 21.3 percent of India’s population lives in extreme poverty earning less than $1.90 a day. As a result, millions of citizens suffer from a lack of access to quality health care and education services as well as to clean water, sanitation and clean energy.

Consequently, India has 21 percent of the world’s disease burden, including 25 percent of the world’s TB cases and 22 percent of child mortality cases; it also has the third largest population of people living with HIV.  This is why USAID has shifted toward a peer-to-peer partnership model engaging multiple partners to achieve priority development outcomes.  We are working with Government of India, frontline health care workers, NGOs, private sector stakeholders, and civil society to identify, demonstrate and scale innovative solutions in India.

One example of a partnership that seeks to do this is the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCH+A) Alliance – the collaboration between USAID, Kiawah Trust, Piramal Foundation and Dasra.  This partnership seeks to demonstrate high-impact innovative approaches to improve health outcomes for mothers and children and to empower adolescent girls.  Here, I would also like to take the opportunity to thank DSP BlackRock, Bank of America Merill Lynch, Philips India, Tata Motors Finance Ltd, Johnson and Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative, Hindustan Times, Mint Publication, and other Dasra Giving Circle members for supporting us in our endeavor.

I am also pleased to announce that USAID will soon be awarding a $2.5 million, public-private partnership project to Wadhwani Initiative for Sustainable Healthcare (WISH) Foundation to scale innovations that reduce preventable infant and maternal deaths in partnership with state governments of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha.  This 5-year project will support innovative primary healthcare solutions such as easy-to-use point of care diagnostics, model Health ATMs that dispense drugs and medicines, and e-health centers.  This project will reach an estimated 10 million people from India’s most vulnerable populations. We are excited about this new partnership with the WISH Foundation, and hope this project will promote innovations in primary healthcare.  

I welcome others to join us in projects supported by USAID.  I am confident that together we can accelerate progress toward the ultimate goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths.  I believe that collective action and synergy are necessary to reach the ambitious development goals we’ve set for ourselves.

I would like to take a moment to step back and reflect on one campaign that needed as many hands as possible to work together to eradicate the existence of this disease. This disease was polio.

When I was born, many children died of polio.  President Franklin Roosevelt was infected as an adult in 1921 and suffered lifelong disabilities as a result.  In the 1940s and 1950s, polio affected tens of thousands of American children and caused panic and closure of public spaces.  In 1952, the worst year for the disease in the United States, physicians recorded nearly 58,000 cases of polio. 

Innovative fundraising and groundbreaking research was led by the March of Dimes, a private philanthropic organization. In 1955, Jonas Salk developed the inactivated polio vaccine and Albert Sabin developed an oral polio vaccine in 1961.  Sabin’s innovative vaccine could be given orally, at a fraction of the cost per dose of the injectable vaccine, and could be administered with minimal training by non-health worker volunteers, making it well suited for mass campaigns. By 1962, the number of reported cases dropped sharply to 910, and in 1979, the United States recorded its last case of naturally occurring “wide virus” polio. 

A disease that was once rampant across the globe today stands eradicated from all countries except Afghanistan and Pakistan. India was officially declared polio-free in 2014. So what innovations contributed to this amazing success story?  Of course, development of the polio vaccines by Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin was instrumental in ending polio.  But vaccines alone weren’t sufficient – they had to reach every household and every child around the world.  This was no small task.

In India, innovative partnerships, programs, and outreach strategies come into the story of ending polio.   

First, the partnership was innovative.  The initiative was strongly led by the Government, with support from many international and local organizations operating on the national, state, district and block levels.  At the district level, partners even met daily, at times, to debrief and ensure real-time monitoring. 

The polio project in India had to continually alter vaccine strategies to reach patients who had been previously overlooked, and deeply engaged the local community members to find and report about missed households.

The polio program also used innovative messaging techniques.  The government and development partners engaged celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan and cricket players to participate in public service. 

I think the polio campaign provides great insights into how we can tear down the even most insurmountable development challenges if we work together as one force in one direction towards that one common goal. In India, the level of coordination between government, financiers, local NGOs and the private sector was critical to achieve what once seemed impossible. India is a country filled with innovations and entrepreneurship, with a highly educated and motivated workforce.  For this reason, India is well suited to tackle huge development challenges here, which are often then replicated in the region and other parts of the world.

I hope that 50 years from now someone will look back on the projects we’re supporting today and deliver a speech about perspectives.  Maybe he or she will ask the audience to recall a time when people still had TB.  Or when women and children were unable to reach their full potential because they did not have access to quality health care.  Maybe he or she will reference a life-saving vaccine that was invented and patented in India in 2016?  Or a game-changing program that eliminated preventable mother and child deaths.

Let’s do everything in our power to make sure that we are part of the movement to improve the health and lives of girls, mothers and children in this country.  Together we can achieve the impossible.

Thank you!

Mumbai, India
Issuing Country