Extremely affordable solar-powered infant warmer to complement skin-to-skin care

Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH)
Organization Location: 
Seattle, WA USA

Each day, 3,100 newborns die worldwide within 24 hours of birth. Ninety percent of these babies could be saved if breastfeeding and warmth are provided immediately. Very small babies (newborns weighing less than 1,800 grams) often are also very sick and should be cared for with a thermoregulation device initially, and managed with skin-to-skin care once they become stable. If such babies are not treated, they can suffer complications of hypothermia, including respiratory distress, acidosis, hypoglycemia, and even death. In order to address this need, our team of engineers, clinicians, and public health researchers will create an infant warming technology to complement the use of the favorable family practice of skin-to-skin care. The warmer will harness solar power by using the innovative, rugged, lightweight, high-efficiency photovoltaic modules developed by our partner, HighFlex Solar, Inc., and non-toxic phase-change material to store and maintain heat. The system will include low-cost temperature monitoring technology to ensure infant safety. This two-year seed grant will be used to design and test an extremely affordable (less than $200), culturally appropriate infant warmer that is optimized for low-resource settings. We will develop the warmer in collaboration with user groups in South Africa, using an iterative design approach that includes a small pilot study to assess efficacy of the device. At the end of two years, we will offer a final product design that has been tested in the field and a clear pathway for integration into health system and market development.