Rapid diagnosis of frail and sick newborns with a handheld vital sign monitor

President and Fellows of Harvard College
Organization Location: 
Boston, MA, USA

Nearly half of all infant deaths occur in the first 28 days after birth, with intrauterine growth restriction, prematurity, low birth weight, hypothermia, and sepsis as leading causes. Rapid and reliable identification of frail and sick newborns is critical to saving lives. Current algorithms used by community health workers for integrated management of neonatal and child illness can identify up to 50% of frail newborns. However, this leaves 50% undetected even under ideal conditions of worker quality and performance. Improved ability to detect IUGR and frail and sick newborns is needed. Advances in sensor and mobile data processing technology provide unprecedented opportunity for novel approaches. We have designed a low-cost, hand-held, non-contact, point-and-click vital sign monitor for neonates that assesses heart and respiratory function, PO2 saturation, thermal regulation and blood vessel branching to improve detection and referral of frail newborns. The VSM is can be used by community health workers and clinic-based personnel. We propose to assess the potential of the VSM as tool to save newborn lives. This will compare VSM-based identification of frail infants with conventional clinical assessment, and in a community setting it will compare the ability of the VSM to enhance CHW impact on newborn health and survival with current practice of CHW monitoring of birth weight and IMNCI.

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