A $20 Gadget that Can Save 70,000 Mothers a Year
Monday, March 9, 2015
The lives of tens of thousands of new mothers around the world could be saved by a simple, hand-held, British-made device costing only £12, which runs on a mobile-phone charger and is set to be introduced in hospitals across Africa, India and Pakistan.
Invented by doctors at one of London’s leading hospitals, the device is the first in the world that can detect whether a woman is likely to go into shock after blood loss during childbirth.
Using a simple traffic-light system, it can also alert healthcare workers in rural communities when a pregnant woman’s blood pressure is dangerously high – ensuring that she can be moved to hospital for life-saving care.
Death in childbirth is now extremely rare in the UK and other rich nations but in developing countries it is responsible for nearly 300,000 lives lost every year.
Experts said the device, known as the Microlife Vital Signs Alert (VSA), which is easy to use and can be charged using a USB cable, could play the crucial role of identifying women most in need of help – described by one leading obstetrician as the “holy grail” of maternal healthcare in the developing world.
The team who developed it, led by Professor Andrew Shennan, a consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and professor of obstetrics at King’s College London, estimates that if rolled out around the world, it could cut maternal mortality rates by 25 per cent – or 70,000 lives every year.