Inexpensive Incubator Expected to Save Millions

Focus Features is releasing a new documentary called “Babies,” a story that follows four infants from around the world who grow up in very different circumstances.  Two San Francisco parents, Susie Wise and Frazer Bradshaw, are behind the project and their daughter, Hattie, is featured in the movie as well.

While the two of them have been pleasantly shocked by how popular their movie became among distributors, Wise also decided that this presented her with a wonderful opportunity.  Wise works at Stanford University’s, a design program that focuses on an extremely broad array of projects.  Students in an Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability class came up with an outreach project called “Embrace.”  The students had traveled to Nepal with the purpose of designing a much less expensive incubator for newborn babies.  They discovered that while the hospitals did use conventional incubators for premature babies, the chances of someone who gave birth in a remote village having access to one were nearly non-existent.  In those cases, the babies perish.

So the design team went to work.  Instead of creating a cheaper version of a traditional incubator, they created a baby warmer that looks very similar to a sleeping bag.  It contains a removable phase change material pouch that can be heated with boiling water.  The pouch is then placed inside of a sleeve in the bag and will remain at 98 degrees for nearly 4 hours, keeping the fragile baby at a crucial temperature as it is brought to a hospital.

The cost is also a huge factor.  The Embrace baby warmer only costs 25 dollars, while a conventional incubator costs nearly twenty thousand.  At such a small price, this is an important tool that could easily be present in many poorer villages all over the world.

The founder of the Embrace project, Jane Chen, says that this could inevitably help one million babies in the next five years.  The first Embrace products will be released in India, where nearly forty percent of the world’s low-birth-weight babies are born.

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