Low-Cost Respiratory Support: Reducing Early Neonatal Death in Malawi

William Marsh Rice University
Organization Location: 
Houston, TX USA

Rationale: Acute respiratory infections are the leading cause of global child mortality.  In the developing world, oxygen therapy is often the only treatment for babies suffering from respiratory distress (RDS).  Without the added pressure of bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (bCPAP), babies struggle to breathe and can suffer serious complications, and frequently death.  A stand-alone bCPAP device can cost $6,000, too expensive for most developing world hospitals.   Innovation: By contrast, we engineered a novel, rugged bCPAP system that can be produced commercially at low volume with a $400 sales price.  Moreover, maintenance requires only replacement of a 25-cent diaphragm every 2 years.   Approach: Rice University, the University of Malawi, Baylor College of Medicine, the Ministry of Health, and 3rd Stone Design will partner to: (1) produce clinic-ready bCPAP systems and submit paperwork for regulatory approval; (2) implement a novel campaign to educate mothers about the availability of life-saving treatment for RDS and to overcome fear of treatments involving tubing and oxygen; (3) scale-up bCPAP country-wide to all central and district hospitals in Malawi; train nursing, clinical and technical staff to use and maintain bCPAP; track impact on neonatal mortality from RDS; and (4) perform an economic evaluation for the use of bCPAP to support global scale-up. Impact: Over the course of this project, provision of bCPAP will avert 1,400 neonatal deaths in Malawi; scaling bCPAP to hospitals across Africa could save the lives of an additional 178,000 neonates each year.

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