A 48-hour global health challenge to save newborns
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A 48-hour global health challenge to save newborns

There’s a certain amount of arrogance that
comes with assuming you’ll make a serious impact to a real and complicated problem in
48 hours. Hackathons are the way to get doctors from one country, engineers from another, designers, people who don’t live in the same world; thinking about the same problem. It’s about starting something. I really believe that global health problems are not solved by charity. They are actually solved by sustainable business models and multi-disciplinary teams.
There’s this crisis that happens worldwide every year that 1.8 million babies die from oxygen- depriving
events at the time of birth. The vast majority of those are preventable. So this is the baby who was born in Uganda. And, the baby was not breathing. This midwife is alone and this is the common situation in most of the developing countries. The easiest place to check the
pulse on a newborn baby is their umbilical chords and even though you cut it off, you
still feel that pulse for quite a period of time. Tying the cord takes more time than
actually putting a clamp. Yeah. And so, the question here is can we put a clamp and cut
and potentially that clamp can then give us the heart rate
somehow. One of the things I’ve noticed is that the baby is moved, right, because of
the baby’s surface. If the baby is on the mother’s abdomen it’s not a great surface.
So if there’s some let’s just say you throw in some kind of tray that gives the midwife
a harder surface. When we mentioned wireless yesterday you’re like too expensive. Well not necessarily, I mean, thinking about it more, I mean there’s also some different ways. Especially if we
use that tray. Because if the tray could have a nice inductive coil in it, and then there
could be a change in inductance on the coil that’s on the umbilical cord, or wherever. You can’t even get clips now we’re going to get these crazy trays? Yes. If we’re having
trouble getting out there how are we going to do this? The economics of that actually
make sense. As long as the clamp that works with the sensing board is cheap enough. You’re
advocating for sustainable. Right? I’m advocating for sustainable because that’s truly what
I think will work. And you’re advocating for emotional attachment to drive adoption. Exactly
that’s … even if it’s not cheap. My country is not all poor. So you have some plastic for the
clamp. The circuit would just be a flex circuit that you would make with a capacitor with
an inductor. Probably twice that thickness with that size. So is there some tin foil?
Yes there is. Let’s blind this, ok? I’m going to tell you when I think that you’re squeezing
it. And, you tell me if that is actually working. Squeeze. Un-squeeze. Squeeze. Un-squeeze.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ah! So we’re detecting deflection with a couple pieces of aluminum foil which were soldered with a soldering gun. It works! Yeah, isn’t that weird?Awesome! There will be babies that
need to be resuscitated and such a huge percentage of them will go on to live their entire lives.
If you only have one dollar to spend, and you wanted to do the biggest health impact,
it’s hard for me to imagine how to do it more than help a baby to live. Knowledge of the
interdependency that exists between physicians and engineers and designers, is very critical. And once you actually recognize it, you want to be with them. We are team Every Baby and we are
here to help every baby.


  • Peter te Riele

    What a great challenge and what an amazing result. We should do this more. Bring creative people together and go for it! I'm in, if anyone has an educational challenge for me.

  • Grace Fox

    Interesting… One thing that came to mind immediately is that their focus on the cord clamp, by its nature, actually creates low oxygenation. When the cord is clamped and cut right away, the oxygen-rich blood from the placenta is prevented from going into the baby. That cord is literally a life support machine and if that's cut off before baby can breathe independently, that can result in very low oxygenation and low respiration. Early clamping is also associated with low Apgar scores and "floppy" babies. So it seems to me that many of these cases of poor respiration would either be prevented or would not be as dire/emergent if the cord was left intact until the placenta was detached and delivered (and coupled with that, not actively managing the third stage of labor by trying to forcefully eject the placenta before it's ready–which can also cause maternal hemorrhage). Not only that, but vaginal births wherein the baby is left to come out on its own without the use of forceps or ventouse (vacuum) will squeeze the baby in such a way that it expels liquid from the lungs and helps baby to take his first breath. If there is too much interference with that process, the baby will not breathe as easily and may very well have fluid in the lungs. I think extra technology can be a great life-saving tool, but much of it would be unnecessary if birth was left more to nature and not "controlled". I'm not saying that they shouldn't still make those tools–in certain births, even under the best circumstances, baby may still have difficulty breathing. So yes, let's try to make it safe for as many babies as we can. But we need to examine not only things we can add to birth, but also what hindrances need to be taken away.

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