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:
do birth attendants know when a woman giving birth is bleeding too much? How do
we know how much is too much?
do mothers and caregivers know when their baby is too cold?
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?
do nurse midwives know when a woman’s blood pressure is dangerously high and
she should administer MgSO4 for pre-eclampsia?
can health providers find out when babies have low blood sugar? How about
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.
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
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