By Ngiste Abebe, Aulenor
The facts are stark: More than 46 million newborns in developing countries around the world need interventions for complications that happen at or around birth each year. In the developing world, where 98 percent of newborn deaths occur, vital signs monitors are not available due to cost, limited resources, and impractical design.
Nurses must monitor NICU wards with 20-30 charges by manually checking vital signs like temperature and heart rate. “By the time you get to the last baby, the last baby may not be surviving,” says nurse Damalie Mwogererwa.
Neopenda aims to change that! This baby hat is wearable technology—it contains a device that tracks the four vital signs nurses use to identify babies in distress: heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, and temperature. The sensors are powered by rechargeable batteries, and wirelessly transmit data to a central monitor which alerts attending healthcare professionals when a newborn is in immediate danger.
If that wasn’t cool enough, this device is completely safe for newborns: It uses a Bluetooth Low Energy transmitter that is FCC-approved and complies with all safety recommendations.
Engineers and co-founders Teresa Cauvel and Sona Shah designed the device while students at Columbia. Last year, the pair went to Uganda to get design input from nurses and doctors who will actually use the Neopenda hat and accompanying software.
Currently, Neopenda is working toward its first field deployment at a partner hospital in Uganda. This small idea could mean big change for newborn health!