, , ,

Save Lives At Birth Challenge Encourages Innovation


The Save Lives At Birth Challenge seeks to improve the chances of survival for mothers and newborns in developing nations. Their aim is to leapfrog existing products and conventional approaches to find the best possible solution to a difficult problem.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, women are 136 times more likely to die in childbirth than in developed countries. From the beginning of labor through the following 48 hours, the mother and newborn are at the highest risk of infection and complications, and the Save Lives At Birth Challenge seeks to change these unfavorable odds.

The Save Lives At Birth Challenge takes on the leapfrogging mentality: skip intermediary steps and get right to the fastest, smartest and cheapest solution. Each year, Save Lives At Birth offers grant money to innovators with big ideas that will help women and children.

One remarkable innovation that received this grant money was the Gene-Radar, created in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s an iPad-sized device that accurately tests for diseases such as HIV in less than an hour. In the developing world, it can take up to two weeks to get blood tests and cost up to $200. The Gene-Radar is still in production, however, by the time it is on the market it will be 10 to 100 times cheaper than the current option.

Using the Gene-Radar, health workers would simply have to take a prick of blood, place it on a nano chip, then place the chip in the device and have results within the hour. This would allow the health worker to easily identify the problem, and for the patient to quickly receive treatment.

Another innovation that received grant money was thought up by a car mechanic, Jorge Odón, who got the idea after watching a video on how to remove the lost cork from a wine bottle. He realized the same trick could be used to save a baby stuck in the birth canal. Odón’s invention is shockingly simple: an attendant would slip a lubricated plastic bag around the baby’s head, inflate to grip and then pull the bag until the baby emerges.

Doctors say this invention has enormous potential in the developing world. Odón has created a solution to a problem that has been around for years. It is innovation like this that the Save Lives At Birth Challenge seeks and promotes.

Hannah Resnick

Sources: Save Lives At Birth 1, Save Lives At Birth 2, Saving Life at Birth 3, USAID
Photo: Save Lives At Birth