Getting to the heart of infant mortality in Africa - CNBC Africa

Getting to the heart of infant mortality in Africa


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The device is aimed at addressing the high rates of preventable infant mortality across Africa. PHOTO: Global Health

“It is very hard to do an accurate measurement with a Pinard-stethoscope, because you need to be able to hear the foetal heart well and count the rate correctly. It is often also uncomfortable for the mother,” said Anneke Jagau, a midwife working for PET.

As a result of this, a partnership has been formed between South Africa-based PET (PowerFree Education Technology) and Royal Philips to further develop, test and commercialise the Wind-up Doppler Ultrasound Fetal Heart Rate Monitor.

The device can be used to easily and accurately count the foetal heart rate while the mother is in labour and is aimed at addressing the high rates of preventable infant mortality across Africa.

(READ MORE: Tablet-sized ultrasound system to care for Africa’s mothers)

While current methods to measure the foetal heart rate are either too expensive, too inaccurate or rely on replaceable batteries or electricity to run, the Wind-up Fetal Doppler is especially designed to empower midwives and nurses to give better care.

“A Doppler ultrasound foetal heart rate monitor is a good solution, but the current monitors on the market require mains or battery power, and are not robust enough,” said Jagau.

The Wind-up Fetal Doppler is expected to be commercialised by the Philips Africa Innovation Hub – the centre for developing innovations in Africa in the areas of healthcare, lighting and healthy living.

According to the diversified technology company, women and infants in semi-urban and rural areas across Africa often die due to preventable complications during child birth.

Infants, especially those in under-resourced settings, often die during labour or suffer brain injury due to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the baby during the hours that the mother is in labour.

Maarten van Herpen, head of the Philips Africa Innovation Hub, said “Philips is open to collaborations with key stakeholders, including governments and NGOs, to create impactful innovations that matter to people and address the key challenges that confront society.”

(READ MORE: Opportunities abound for mHealth in Africa)

“PET has invested many years in the development of this important idea. I am honored that PET has chosen Philips as the company that is best positioned to commercialize it and make it available across Africa,” he added.

The prototype of the Wind-up Fetal Doppler is currently subject to clinical testing and regulatory approval, before release for general usage.