January 26

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New year, more lives to be saved

?????????????????It is the New Year and my assignment at Save the Children UK ended before Christmas in a whirlwind of activities. As said before, this Pulse role at Save the Children is a continuous one, at least for now, over the 5 year partnership with GSK ( I was number 3) and I have now handed the baton over to Julian Earl who will no doubt find the role as fascinating as all us predecessors.

It was great being in London at Christmas as all became very festive with lights, music concerts, carols as well as increased shopping fervour. The camaraderie at Save the Children was great as it was a time when people returned from overseas to join their families and friends and it was fascinating to hear stories from those working in some very challenging situations. Also fun to try out some unusual treats from those more exotic locations. But it was also a time for reflection of the great achievements and continued commitment to improve the lives of children everywhere and the chance to re-energise before renewing those efforts in the coming year.

The GSK- Save the Children Partnership continues to evolve and the Signature Programmes (DRC now into its second year and Kenya just over 6 months) are already starting to see their efforts bear fruit with many healthworkers trained and infrastructure put in place that is already benefitting children and will soon help many more. Progress from other workstreams such as the new chlorhexidine gel for umbilical cord care, the specific expertise from our vaccines staff on supply chain issues and joint position papers on topics such as access to medicines universal health coverage, to name a few, will each provide added value to the ongoing work to reduce under 5 mortality in some of the most underserved children of the world.

The challenge of my role was to the gather the evidence that our interventions have contributed to saving 1 million lives so that it can be used to influence governments and other bodies to replicate or modify these interventions to other settings thus helping even more children. This is not always so easy when there is no precedented methodology, record keeping may be inconsistent or sparse or where the benefits may be less tangible – but generating those data by means that are credible to outside world is itself the challenge and excitement of this Pulse assignment. We have just appointed an external team of experts to review our proposed methodology so I am hoping to hear positive feedback from Julian in the coming weeks.

Unlike some Pulse assignments, it has not felt so strange returning to GSK since the partnership has many GSK leaders and members and in fact I was able to gain insights into a much wider range of GSK activities than in my day job. I would thoroughly recommend a Pulse assignment to anyone who wants to broaden their outlook and perspectives on life in general. I just took a holiday in the Holyland as had always wanted to visit Bethlehem at Christmas. The whole trip was wonderful but I also saw with renewed eyes the difficult circumstances that conflict can bring to health, education and even daily living; areas of our own lives that we can take for granted – and it made me resolve to explore ways where I can make a positive contribution to improving equality and tolerance.

On a brighter note to finish – our Christmas jumper event was a fun day in the office with photo opportunities, more food! and general frivolity. And to top it all we had a film crew outside shooting the new Mission Impossible film. Several of us hung around hoping for chance a) to see Tom Cruise and b) to appear in a crowd scene. Neither were to be as the scene was set in October so the jumpers would definitely have caused continuity issues. It also shows my age that several ladies were more excited by the actual appearance of Jeremy Renner than the non appearance of Tom Cruise. I could see that it takes many, many people, lots of logistics and no doubt a fair bit of cash to deliver a few seconds of blockbuster film footage with one just actor and yet the payback factor is high – maybe there is some parallel in there to our partnership efforts in saving children’s lives.