More than 100 projects spanning the globe — including a number from South-East Asia — will share CAN$10.9 million (US$10.7 million) worth of funding from the Canadian government to pursue novel and cost-effective innovations in disease treatment.
Each project under the Stars in Global Health programme will receive CAN$100,000 according to Peter Singer, chief executive officer of the non-profit organisation Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Canadian government.
The awarding of the grants was announced this week (29 April). Recipients are eligible to apply for scaled-up CAN$1 million grants if their project ideas prove successful as evaluated by an investment committee which will look on the impact at scale and sustainability.
Forty-three of the new recipients are Canadian-based projects which will be implemented worldwide, while 59 are from 13 low- and middle-income countries, Singer tells SciDev.Net.
The peer-reviewed projects span Africa, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and South and Central America, and address a range of diseases including HIV/AIDS, malaria and typhoid.
In Bangladesh, for example, researchers are designing a programme to make street food safer for consumers by educating food vendors. They are also giving them simple locally-made devices which treat water for disposal with chlorine solution to prevent the spread of cholera and other food- and water-borne diseases.
Aliya Naheed, a Dhaka-based health systems specialist who is implementing the project, says such work typically receives little attention from donors and that the grant will help her team generate evidence to raise awareness around the problem.
"If this intervention works among street-food vendors in Dhaka, it would be good for other cities" in Bangladesh and across Asia, says Naheed.
In Vietnam, a team of researchers is developing a pilot project to send text messages about health education to the mobile phones of migrant factory workers.
The main goals of the project are to assess workers' healthcare needs and to collect data on prevalent sexual and reproductive health problems, says Fleur Macqueen Smith, a project spokesperson from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada.
The project "breaks the mould on a number of fronts in health research" by providing tailored health information (e.g. care, access, health promotion) directly to recipients (tailored text messages) and giving them access to health care providers, "something not commonly done", says Nazeem Muhajarine, a professor at the university.
He tells SciDev.Net that the project is especially important because Vietnam's migrant workers are a vulnerable population that does not receive much support from institutions or society.
Applications for the next round of funding for Stars in Global Health programme will be announced next week.