Low-cost Incubator and Ventilator for Saving Lives at Birth

University of Maryland Baltimore County
Organization Location: 
Baltimore, MD, USA

Low-resource environments present many challenges for maternal and neonatal healthcare delivery. Among these, is a lack of basic equipment to preserve and protect newborns, particularly at-risk neonates. For example, a simple incubator/warmer is lacking in most primary health care facilities. Devices to provide respiratory support are also lacking. Furthermore, available solutions pioneered by developed countries do not fare well in a resource limited area- for example, reliable electricity supply is not readily available. Cultural factors also inhibit care giving, as there is social pressure on mothers to get back to work as soon as possible and leaving the infant in a hospital is generally not done, thereby further decreasing chances of survival.

Considering all these complex technical and social factors, our team of engineers and a neonatologist together from the University of Maryland in partnership with General Electric’s Maternal Infant Care division propose to pilot simple, rugged technology solutions that can be readily implemented in a low resource setting. Our one year goal is to design and build two innovative components 1. A low-cost incubator-warmer-cooler-transporter and 2. A low-cost portable ventilator. Once these are built and lab tested, we will work with General Electric to translate our component innovation into an integrated innovation. We have identified a possible rural location in Southern India (Ananthapur district, Andhra Pradesh) as a potential initial deployment site and we will partner with local government/NGOs. Phase II will target an integrated innovation that translates the component innovations into a self-sustaining health care delivery paradigm.