Low-Tech Lifesavers: How a Simple Armband Is Protecting Babies From Hypothermia

A baby with a Bempu armband

Complicated monitoring equipment, incubators, a stable source of electricity - now, even without any of these things, babies in India can still be saved from hypothermia. The Bempu armband is a low-tech innovation that helps protect babies from invisible dangers when they're most vulnerable.

Author Paul Stadelhofer:

Translation Marisa Pettit, 02.13.17

Operating under the tagline “simply saving lives”, the concept behind the BEMPU Hypothermia Monitoring Device is as straight-forward as it sounds: an armband that measures the temperature of newborn babies. If their body temperature drops to a dangerous level, the armband beeps and flashes, alerting the mothers (or any other carers) to pick up their baby and “kangaroo” it, warming it against their skin, until the baby’s temperatures has increased to a safe level. It’s as simple as that. While hypothermia is not usually a direct cause of death, it’s still a challenge for newborn survival, even in tropical environments. 

From Stanford With Love

Created by Standford graduate Ratul Narain especially with hospitals and families with limited resources in mind, the product has been sponsored by the Gates Foundation and also won first place at the Siemens Foundation’s empowering people.Award in 2016. According to information from the World Health Organisation, in developing countries (where the huge majority of newborn deaths happen), nearly 50% of all mothers and their newborn babies do not receive care from a medical professional after birth. This lack of support and information results in a huge amount of preventable deaths – tragedies that could be averted with low-cost and low-tech solutions, like this one. 

What’s so great about this device? Well, for a start it’s intuitive and easy to use: just pull the tab to active it and it monitors the baby around the clock. There’s no need to own or operate a smartphone, take the baby’s temperature, or even understand exactly how it works. All the carer or nurse needs to do is swaddle the baby or pick it up and give it their own body warmth. And with a lifetime of just 28 days, the device is designed to be used during the baby’s first four weeks – the exact time that the infant is at its most vulnerable

But that last factor raises just one small question though – what happens to the device when the 28 days are over? Is it possible to replace the batteries and use it again, or is this technology for one-time use only? If it is, then it’s probably not the most sustainable solution, at least in material and einvironmental terms. And maybe, at 2000 rupees (around 30 USD) for a single-use product, it’s way out of the price range of the families who need it most.

If you want to support the project, help this ingenious device become part of India’s healthcare infrastructure and reach as many people as possible, then click here to make a donation.

This article was translated from the original by Paul Stadelhofer, which appeared on our German-language platform.

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