The Maternal Health Task Force is excited to announce the launch of Tech4MH, a blog series that will focus on technologies that hold promise for meeting the challenges of delivering maternal health care in low resource settings. The series will feature posts from product designers, health technology and programming experts, and donors on innovations. Posts will highlight the role that guest bloggers see for new technologies overcoming barriers that leave too many women without the quality care they need during pregnancy and delivery.
Recently, The New York Times profiled a mechanic in Argentina, Jorge Odon, who invented a low-cost instrument to ease assisted vaginal deliveries. Odon, inspired by a YouTube video he had watched on how to get a cork out of an empty wine bottle with a blown up plastic bag, built a prototype of the device using “a glass jar for a womb, his daughter’s doll for the trapped baby, and a fabric bag and sleeve sewn by his wife.”
Supported by research grants from USAID’s Saving Lives at Birth Challenge and Grand Challenges Canada, the Odon Device is currently undergoing medical trials. If it passes WHO safety tests, the Odon Device will be manufactured by Becton, Dickinson and Company and sold to developing country governments at an affordable cost. This would make Odon Device just the third technology ever available at large scale for assisted vaginal deliveries, joining the forceps and vacuum extractor. This device could play a major role in improving the management of second stage of labor in facilities lacking surgical capacity or adequately trained personnel. Early research suggests that the Odon device could also be used for preventing of vertical transmission of infections during childbirth.
Innovative low-cost medical devices like the Odon device, along with innovations in information and communication technology (ICT) and the use of mobile technologies for health services (mHealth) are increasingly being used across the spectrum of maternal health care: from antenatal care, through management of labor and delivery, and in the postpartum period.
Promising technologies include CommCare, an open source mobile platform developed by Dimagi that supports frontline health workers in gathering and distributing data; the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment (NASG), a neoprene wrap used to treat shock in women experiencing postpartum hemorrhage; and a single-use oxytocin injection system developed by PATH to address postpartum hemorrhage in peripheral health facilities and home deliveries. These new and innovative technologies offer remarkable potential for reducing maternal mortality and morbidity in the low resource settings where most maternal deaths occur.
While technology cannot replace skilled health workers or well-equipped, fully functioning health systems, technologies such as these hold potential for addressing the barriers that too often leave high quality health services out of reach. In this series, guest bloggers will discuss the range of technologies that are being developed, as well as opportunities and challenges for harnessing their full potential.
Tech4MH is an ongoing guest blog series curated by MHTF Research Assistant Yogeeta Manglani. If you would like to submit a guest blog post for possible inclusion the series, please email Yogeeta at firstname.lastname@example.org.