Remarkable advances in global child health have been attained in recent years, yet considerable work remains to be achieved. Unfortunately, most priority countries continue to be off track for realizing Millennium Development Goal 4, reducing under-5 child mortality by two-thirds from 1990 to 2015. High-impact health programs that reduce morbidities and save lives are urgently required at both regional and grassroots levels. Overall, new technology has made communication easier, but up to now no single widely recognized resource has existed to facilitate the development of meaningful partnerships focused on improving global child health.
In this context, imagine the following scenarios:
▸ A hospital system in West Africa is in desperate need of surgical equipment. Health organizations in Europe and America have excess surgical supplies, but no awareness of where donations are specifically needed.
▸ A maternal-newborn research unit in southern India has existing capacity to complete crucial large-scale investigations, but lacks specific technical expertise and/or access to potential funding partners.
▸ A medical relief agency is prepared to support the travel expenses for an international team of emergency clinicians to respond to the pediatric needs of a large population affected by natural disaster in South America.
The International Child Health Network (ICHN) was launched in March 2010 to fill these gaps and more. This innovative and dynamic Web-based network was developed to actively support meaningful collaborations among pediatricians and others who are working to improve global child health. The ICHN is a free and open service designed to establish connections that foster cooperation on health projects including relief and development work, humanitarian service, equipment/supply donation, education, research, fund-raising, and visitor exchange. The site is managed by the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on International Child Health (SOICH).
The ICHN has been enormously well received in the brief period since its launch, with nearly 400 active users and a growing list of successful collaborative efforts.
Dr. Sangita Basnet, the Country Coordinator for Nepal, has facilitated the visits of more than 20 international expert volunteers from high-income countries to the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units at Patan Charity Hospital in Kathmandu.
In addition, a physician-in-training from the United States recently worked with the local team to complete the first prevalence pilot study in lead poisoning in the children of Nepal.
In Pakistan, Country Coordinator Dr. Ghulam Mustafa reports a new partnership with a Canadian physician, developed through the ICHN, through which plans are being made to establish a local maternal-child health center.
Using the ICHN is simple. After a brief registration process, the network can be used in two different ways. The ICHN's powerful search engine can be accessed by independent users to identify potential partners who have specific interests and expertise – such as a particular country of interest, language skill, and/or profession. The ICHN also can be used to identify collaborators and opportunities through Country Coordinators – each country around the world has a designated Country Coordinator in the network who has experience living or working in that country. Country Coordinators have vital knowledge and contacts freely available to network users to help them achieve their goals.
The ICHN is ready to serve you. To start the process, simply point your browser to www.ichn.org.
Dr. Spector is chairperson of the AAP Section on International Child Health and a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.