A group of innovative inventors from Design that Matters have built an incubator from recycled car parts that could prevent millions of newborn deaths in the developing world.
According to DtM, 3.9 million infants in the developing world die every year within a month of birth. 25 percent of those deaths are due to complications of prematurity, usually heat and water loss.[social_buttons]
Dr. Kristian Olson, the principal investigator in the project, says the main causes of newborn death – infections, preterm birth and asphyxiation – are readily treatable with the right expertise and equipment. He hopes to create a cheap, reliable incubator that can be serviced easily with existing resources.
The Global Health Initiative at the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) is promoting the project, which is working toward a design that can be:
- Sold for about $1000 (3% of the cost of the current incubators)
- Manufactured from parts available locally, and repaired by local workers
- Designed for the local conditions, like temperature extremes and fluctuations in power supply
In the Design that Matters incubator, the heat for the unit comes from a pair of headlights. An automobile air filter and fan provide the climate control, and a car door alarm signals emergencies.
Dr. Jonathan Rosen, former director of CIMIT’s technology implementation program, said he learned from doctors working in developing countries that no matter how remote the community, there always seemed to be a Toyota 4Runner that worked. So the challenge became to “start with a 4Runner and take away all the parts that weren’t an incubator.”
With $150,000 in initial financing from CIMIT, the project’s next step is to find funding to develop a working prototype, then gain endorsement from organizations like the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund to speed the adoption of the technology.