Baltimore, Md.—From a university lab in Baltimore to a medical device powerhouse in Stavanger, Norway, a team of student biomedical engineers, public health experts and industrial innovators are on a mission to save the estimated 350,000 women who die each year while pregnant or giving birth and up to two million babies who die within the first 24 hours of life.
It’s a daunting challenge, but the founding partners of Day of Birth Alliance say helping frontline health workers provide integrated care for mothers and babies during labor, at birth and after can make the difference.
“Our alliance is about never separating moms from babies, and the care both the mother and baby need at birth,” said Dr. Harshad Sanghvi, the Medical Director of Jhpiego, a global health nonprofit, and founding member of the alliance. “The survival of the baby is hugely jeopardized by an ill or dead mother. Our focus is on what frontline health workers can achieve. Our work will make them more effective.”
This unique venture pairs Jhpiego’s global health experts and their nearly 40 years of experience in the field with the bright engineering stars of the Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), and the proven engineering and business executives from Laerdal Global Health, a not-for-profit offshoot of the successful medical device manufacturer, Laerdal Medical.
The alliance’s goal is to develop new tools and technologies to help diagnose and assess potentially life-threatening conditions that would normally elude frontline health workers because of their remote location or underequipped facilities. For example, each year, approximately 350,000 mothers and up to two million babies die during pregnancy or on the day of birth. An estimated 99 percent of these deaths occur in low-resource settings and can be prevented with the right equipment. The alliance is working on devices that will help pinpoint signs of a complicated labor as well as assist newborns in taking their first breaths.
The partners will build upon the innovative, Laerdal-developed Helping Babies Breathe and Helping Mothers Survive training programs to develop a portfolio of projects that will address critical needs of both baby and mother.
The talented alliance members include:
- Tore Laerdal, whose more than 70-year-old family company is a leading manufacturer of resuscitation and therapy equipment. Mr. Laerdal founded a non-profit organization to produce innovative, highly affordable, durable and culturally acceptable products to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in low-resource settings;
- Dr. Sanghvi, Medical Director and Vice President of Jhpiego, an expert in international maternal health who promotes bringing the best care available to women where they live;
- Dr. Youseph Yazdi, the Executive Director of CBID at the Whiting School of Engineering, and Dr. Soumya Acharya, Graduate Program Director, the architects of the award-winning global health curriculum at CBID;
- And Hopkins students such as Lauren Smith, 28, of Finley, Ohio, whose CBID team is developing a device for early detection of fetal distress; and Stephen Dria, 21, of Houston, who is helping design a new infant resuscitation device that would be easier for a community health worker to use than a traditional bag and mask.
“This alliance is a dream team of experts and experience that has the potential to transform the way health care is delivered in remote villages and health facilities in low-resource settings,” said Leslie Mancuso, President and CEO of Jhpiego.
Jhpiego (pronounced “ja-pie-go”), is an international non-profit health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. For nearly 40 years, Jhpiego has empowered frontline health workers by designing and implementing effective, low-cost, hands-on solutions to strengthen the delivery of health care services for women and their families. Jhpiego works to break down barriers to high-quality health care for the world’s most vulnerable populations.