One evening, about 2 months ago, I went for an event in Mumbai. I had no idea about what this was about as I was simply accompanying my colleagues. It turned out to be a awareness event about Embrace. By the end of the event I was so impressed by the product, I decided to write about it.
Embrace is a non-profit organization started by 4 young professionals who got together at Stanford University. Their first offering is a low-cost infant incubator, which can drastically bring down infant mortality rates.
The problem they are addressing
In most developing countries, such as India, infant mortality rates are high. Every year over 4,00,000 newborns die within the first 24 hours of their birth. India is one of the leading performers in this with an infant mortality rate of 72 for every 1000 live births – higher than that of our neighbour Bangladesh.
In most cases, deaths are caused by the lack of adequate medical facilities in the poorer communities. Most of these deaths are preventable. One such preventable condition is hypothermia. Premature babies cannot maintain their body temperature and hence need an external incubator. As external incubators are expensive, and limited in availability, many families use them only for a few days. Many babies don’t get the warmth they need for the required period, and don’t survive this period. Of those who do survive, quite a few develop health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and low IQ, early in life.
How does the Embrace incubator work?
The infant incubator is a simple solution that costs less than 1% of the regular incubator (if I remember correctly, it costs $25). At first sight, it looks like a mini-sleeping bag. It consists of a pouch with a phase change material, almost like wax, which melts when heated with normal boiling water and stays at 37 degrees C for 3-4 hours. This pouch is put inside the sleeping bag and zipped. That’s it!
The incubator can be used with bare minimum resources. The mother just needs to heat the pouch. No electricity is required, and the solution is portable and reusable. All this makes it ideal for poorer communities, especially in rural areas, where infrastructure facilities are missing.
The way ahead
Two of the founders were present at the event and their passion and commitment was clear from the work they have done so far, and is sure to take this benefit to the masses. The team, headed by Jane Chen, is planning to make this a sustainable enterprise. They are presently working on the field in India to find partners to launch this within communities where it is most needed – villages and urban slums. The plan is to partner with private clinics, government hospitals and NGOs to ensure reach.
What got me the most excited was the simplicity of the solution. Most big problems in the world have simple solutions. They get discovered when a committed team, like this one, gets down to finding them. Let’s wish the Embrace Team our best, our warmest regards to the warmth providers.
For more information visit www.embraceglobal.org
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