Looking back, looking forward
I write with an important update regarding Venture Strategies Innovations (VSI). As you may know, VSI was founded with the support and vision of an anonymous donor as a nonprofit private foundation, with the mission to help pioneer the introduction and use of misoprostol for obstetric indications, and to help de-stigmatize its use for women’s health globally.
Since our beginning, VSI’s programs have principally focused on the introduction and integration into health systems of misoprostol for maternal and reproductive health, including the management of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) and treatment of incomplete abortion and miscarriage, and to misoprostol and mifepristone for the safe termination of pregnancy. In many countries in Africa and Asia, VSI’s work has resulted in national-level successes in creating and expanding access to misoprostol and mifepristone, and to the improvement of key maternal health services such as postabortion care.
VSI’s model has three components: 1) achieving regulatory approval of quality reproductive and maternal health products; 2) evaluating innovative distribution and service delivery strategies to increase access for hard-to-reach populations and incorporating the product’s use into policies and practices, and 3) improving product availability. Collaborating with local and international partners, VSI has worked to identify and overcome challenges to integrate essential medicines and services into national public health systems, thus reaching women and communities with the greatest need.
Our work has been quite successful, and coupled with the efforts of so many NGOs, international organizations and donors, misoprostol is now registered and available for obstetric indications in more than 30 countries globally. With misoprostol now broadly accepted and increasingly available for women’s health, VSI has achieved its aims of registering and supporting the mainstreaming of misoprostol, and we have determined that the mission of VSI has now been essentially fulfilled. As such, early in 2015, VSI will formally close as a nonprofit organization, transferring its extensive resources and technical expertise to the University of California, Berkeley, Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability, where some of the early research began on the viability of introducing misoprostol for obstetrics.
VSI is extremely proud of the work we have accomplished in our short lifetime. Over the past several years, there has been a transformation in global attitudes towards the use of misoprostol and an acceptance of its important role in improving women’s reproductive health. VSI has collaborated closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN), Ministries of Health and local medical experts, and many partner organizations, and together this network has played a crucial role in contributing to successful changes in global maternal and reproductive health policies.
Although the organization is coming to a close, the work will not end. I am providing here a link to our new publication, Making a Difference with Misoprostol: The Case of VSI. This document outlines VSI’s approach, accomplishments and impact from our inception to the present. In addition, VSI is currently working with the Bixby Center at UC Berkeley to establish an online public access library where documents and materials developed over the course of VSI’s work can be shared for global health benefit. Materials to be included in this library will range from information, education, communication (IEC) materials in multiple languages for various audiences; our compendium of operations research findings; and various medical policy documents and protocols. Dr. Ndola Prata, VSI’s Medical Director, serves as Director of the Bixby Center at UC Berkeley, and will continue to serve as a valuable resource and expert on these important maternal health issues.
VSI owes a huge debt of gratitude to our founding donor for their sustained support to advance our shared mission of expanding access to maternal and reproductive health services. To our programmatic partners, our field teams on the ground, and to all those, both past and present, who supported our mission and organization, thank you. We are grateful for the support of each of our donors and for the many partnerships over the years that have enabled us together to make such important contributions to the health of women and girls worldwide.
In the eight years since Nigeria became the first country in the world to register misoprostol for PPH prevention and treatment, there has been an explosion in global interest around the use of misoprostol. Policies set by global organizations including WHO, the UN, the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and others now advocate for the use of the medicine to significantly improve reproductive health. Donor support has continually increased and programs are being scaled up in countries around the world. As countries strive to deliver on Millennium Development Goal 5’s aim to improve maternal health, the use of misoprostol and mifepristone to address critical maternal health problems, including PPH and unsafe abortion, can be an important, cost-effective strategy to improve maternal health outcomes and to saving so many lives.
Looking forward, VSI believes that prioritizing increased access to misoprostol and mifepristone will make a significant contribution to preventing maternal mortality and morbidity globally. VSI is proud to have played a role in this important and groundbreaking global health effort and we look forward to a day when women and girls can lead healthy, vibrant lives regardless of where they live.
President and CEO