About three million children die within one month of life each year in the world. 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. Among the causes of neonatal mortality, hypothermia (low body temperature) is one of the most important in developing countries, even though up to 40% of deaths associated with hypothermia could be prevented by simple and appropriate thermal management.
Most existing medical devices in industrialized countries cannot fulfill – or be adapted to fulfill – the technical specifications of the context of district hospitals in developing countries. Neither can they fulfill the stringent requirement of a radical reduction of the “cost of ownership” (total cost of the device during its complete lifecycle). Attempts have been made to develop appropriate incubators or simplified infant warmers. They suffer from a series of drawbacks like inability to be carried into industrial production and solutions not meeting safety standards.
The essential incubator must be simple and intuitive to use, bearing all the features of a “high-tech” incubator whilst being well adapted to the context of a district hospital in the developing world
- Resistance to deleterious effects of voltage spikes and ‘unclean’ electricity
- Thermal Battery to allow the continuous operation of the heating system in spite of electrical black outs and power cuts
- Resistance to humidity of 98%, temperatures up to 50°C and high levels of dust
- Low maintenance
- Quality thermal regulation, maintaining the zone of thermo-neutrality of the newborn
- Integrated phototherapy unit to treat neonatal jaundice in order to avoid cerebral palsy caused by kernicterus
- Safe use by untrained staff
- Largely language-independent, i.e. rely on pictograms