Finding solutions to maternal and newborn mortality is a challenge that is both simple and complex. Simple because we know most direct causes of death. For example, we know that too many mothers die from postpartum hemorrhage, and preterm newborns often die because of infection. The complexity comes when we try to answer these questions for program implementation:
How do birth attendants know when a woman giving birth is bleeding too much? How do we know how much is too much?
How do mothers and caregivers know when their baby is too cold?
How do we know the amount of Kangaroo Mother Care that is necessary to protect preterm babies? And how do we collect the data we need to answer this question?
How do nurse midwives know when a woman's blood pressure is dangerously high and she should administer MgSO4 for pre-eclampsia?
How can health providers find out when babies have low blood sugar? How about caregivers?
There are many questions to answer in doing research and in delivering effective programs. These often come down to two main themes: 1) how to change behavior, and 2) how to get the data we need to make decisions. At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are excited to explore how wearable and/or sensor technology can help answer these questions. Here are five examples:
The SoaPen is a different take on "wearables." Like a crayon, the SoaPen makes a mark on children's hands, making handwashing a fun activity. Along with education and marketing, the SoaPen promotes handwashing, potentially cutting in half the number of children under 5 years of age who are dying of diarrhea.
The Bempu device is a bracelet for newborns that tracks temperature, alerting caregivers to when the baby's temperature drops too low. By addressing hypothermia, the Bempu helps to reduce a major cause of infant death.
The RingLy* is a ring that expecting mothers wear to remind and encourage them to make their full schedule of antenatal care visits. As the mother "collects" each additional visit, the ring shows an additional color band and by the time the mother delivers her baby, the ring is fully colored in.
Why are #4 and #5 blank? We want you to tell us what wearable and/or sensor solutions you can come up with to save the lives of mothers, newborns, and children in the developing world. The creative possibilities are endless and we know you've got great ideas that we'd love to support.
Check out the Grand Challenges Wearables and Technology for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Behavior Change topic for more details.
*The Ringly doesn't actually exist, nor do we know that it will necessarily change behavior to increase antenatal care visits. But there's only one way to find out… and don't forget to look at the human-centered design resource links here and here.