Designers Chris Barnes and others at Cambridge Consultants, UK, have designed a wearable health monitor for newborns in low resource countries. Called ‘Little I’, the device is affordable, durable and gives a chance to parents of low-income groups to ensure that newborn gets a fair chance of survival. The device records all the medical information for the crucial Neo-natal period of 28 days.
The most important aspect of the effort is reach and acceptability of the device. For that, the company has involved non-profits and community workers. Non-profit and donor bodies will buy the device then transport it to needy areas via community workers and NGOs stationed in the interiors, who will teach the workers how to use it.
Then there would be dissemination of information among the parent/mothers. The new mothers would be provided the Little I device after giving birth. After 28 days, the device is returned which is then cleaned and recharged to be used by another newborn.
The biggest challenge for the Cambridge team was to design a device that could function in no electricity or source of recharge. The components and features were designed keeping these criteria in mind. The device is shaped like a strap-on shoe and comes with a silicone strap and an ABS case for holding the electronics. It has an ON/OFF switch that gets triggered as soon as the shoe is worn. The device has a temperature sensor and SPO2 sensors that monitor the health of the baby regularly.
Little I has a simple user interface that uses a traffic light system, icons, and distinctive audible sounds to make it practical for anyone to learn and take immediate action in case of emergencies. The design is user friendly and is not too complicated.
The device flashes green every 30 seconds, indicating the baby’s health status to be normal. An orange icon comes on with a regular beep when the temperature rises or the oxygen saturation level is low. Pressing the button turns the beep off.
A red cross icon flashes every 1 second with a fast-paced alarm if the baby’s condition goes critical. One can turn it off by pressing the icon. But the baby’s health does not improve; it automatically turns on after two hours again.
There is a flash and beep for incorrect placement of the device on the baby’s foot.
It is imperative that the workers build trust within the users about the device and get rid of any superstitions surrounding its use, especially that deal with children, and removing any obvious association with any illness, In low income and under-developed areas, it is difficult to gain acceptance about any devices, especially with a design that is more medical in appearance.
So minimizing the anxieties that a caregiver could have while putting a never before seen device on their newborn’s foot is imperative.
It is user-friendly, durable, reliable, and can be conveniently carried along and more importantly it can be used to save a newborn’s life in emergency situations by alerting a healthcare worker.
Underdeveloped countries with no access to medical care witness a high rate of Neo-natal deaths. Infections, congenital defects, and intrapartum deaths are common in SubSahara Africa and some parts of Asia. Little I helps in monitoring infection and hypothermia in infants in the first 28 days. Across the globe in 2018, 2.5 million babies died within their first month of life. Collectively, Africa and Southern Asia made up approximately 87.7% of these deaths, says data from UNICEF.
Most deaths occur as the carer does not realize the urgency of medical care needed, say NGOs working in such areas. Children are mostly brought in too late.