Jane Chen has spent years working in the developing world and in this Ted Talk, she talks about an invention that can keep millions of premature infants warm.
The co-founder and CEO of Embrace, a social enterprise, talks about a low-cost infant warmer that requires “no electricity, has no moving parts, is portable and is safe and intuitive to use”. She starts her talk by explaining the need for this, “What you see here is a premature baby. He looks like he’s resting peacefully, but in fact he’s struggling to stay alive because he can’t regulate his own body temperature. This baby is so tiny he doesn’t have enough fat on his body to stay warm. Sadly, 20 million babies like this are born every year around the world. Four million of these babies die annually.”
She adds, “But the bigger problem is that the ones who do survive grow up with severe, long-term health problems. The reason is because in the first month of a baby’s life, its only job is to grow. If it’s battling hypothermia, its organs can’t develop normally, resulting in a range of health problems from diabetes, to heart disease, to low IQ. Imagine: Many of these problems could be prevented if these babies were just kept warm.”
That is the primary function of an incubator, she states. On a trip to India, she recalls meeting a young woman named Sevitha, “who had just given birth to a tiny premature baby, Rani. She took her baby to the nearest village clinic, and the doctor advised her to take Rani to a city hospital so she could be placed in an incubator. But that hospital was over four hours away, and Sevitha didn’t have the means to get there, so her baby died.”
Her invention looks “nothing like an incubator. It looks like a small sleeping bag for a baby. You can open it up completely. It’s waterproof. There’s no seams inside so you can sterilise it very easily. But the magic is in this pouch of wax. This is a phase-change material. It’s a wax-like substance with a melting point of human body temperature, 37 degrees Celsius. You can melt this simply using hot water and then when it melts it’s able to maintain one constant temperature for four to six hours at a time, after which you simply reheat the pouch. So, you then place it into this little pocket back here, and it creates a warm micro-environment for the baby.”
Watch her inspirational video.