New device may help reduce neonatal mortality

P Sunderarajan Padmanabhan Shillong | Updated on January 09, 2018

India had a neonatal mortality rate of 25.4 per 1,000 livebirthlast year. In other words, an average of little more than 25 children out of 1,000 live births diedwithin 28 days of their births. It is significantly more than the global average of 19 per 1,000 live births recorded last year.

A group of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) at Bangalore have come up with a solutionthat promises to reduce new-born deaths significantly. The solution addresses the issue of hypothermia, which is one of the major causes of neonatal deaths. Hypothermia is a medical condition wherebody rapidly loses temperature. Premature babies, are highly vulnerable to develop the condition as they do not have enough body fat.

The solution is in the form ofa small device. The device works by constantly monitoring the baby’sbody temperature and raise alert the doctor if it goes down below the threshold limit. The device is designed to stream temperature data to the treating paediatrician through a mobile phone so that immediate corrective measures could be taken as and when temperatures drop to dangerous levels.

Speaking to India Science Wire, leader of the research team and Chairman of the IISc’s Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber Physical Systems,Amrutur Bharadwaj, said the device is required to be placed next to the baby’s body near the navel. It could be taped on to the body.

The device also consists of an accelerometer to keep a track of what angle the baby is being held. “This is essential to ensure that the child is able to breathe properly. Under no circumstance, the baby should be lying on its stomach.”

The device has been tested successfully on 80 children. It has been developed in association with St Johns Research Institute and St. John’s Medical College in Bangalore.

“The device would be particularly useful in rural areas, where there is lack of adequate neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). In urban centres, it is possible to keep the babies in NICUs for days on end. But, it is not the case in the rural set up. The device in a way will be like taking NICUs to the homes of the needy babies,” he said.

Dr. Bharadwaj made a presentation on the device at the annual meeting of the Indian Academy of Science, which is currently on here. The three-day meeting is being held at the North East Hill University (NEHU) here. Over 160 scientists from different parts of the country are participating in the meeting, which began on Friday.

P Sunderarajan Padmanabhan is the writer with India Science Wire; @ndpsr

Published on November 04, 2017

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