Five Maternal Health Innovations That Could Save Lives

Friday, August 5, 2011

Every two minutes, somewhere around the world a woman dies in childbirth. Often, a lack of access to care, technology or medications causes these fatal complications.

In an effort to reduce deaths of both mothers and infants at birth, teams from across the globe are competing in an innovation challenge held by the U.S. State Department and funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.*

The field was narrowed from 77 finalists to 19 award nominees Friday at the Saving Lives at Birth conference. The remaining nominees will learn if they receive a cut of the $14 million research pot up for grabs by the end of 2011.

Check out five of the nominated innovations below and see a complete list here.

Preventing low birth weight with chewing gum
Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas

Did you know that gum disease in pregnant women is linked to preterm birth and low birth weight infants? Neither did we, but the team at Baylor College of Medicine has a possible solution straight off the grocery store shelves. Some chewing gums contain sugar alcohols, called polyols, that prevent gum disease, but to date they have not been utilized for this particular purpose.

The team hopes to roll out chewing gum or gummy snacks containing polyols to try to reduce early births in Malawi, and will evaluate the logistics of acceptability of this concept in the community.

Stopping HIV transmission with a vacuum pack
Duke University from Durham, N.C.

Antiretroviral drugs have helped cut HIV transmission from mother to child in developing countries and nearly eliminate it in the United States. In sub-Saharan Africa, some women have to travel great distances to obtain medical care and often give birth at home. Duke University developed a foil, polyethylene pouch — much like a fast-food ketchup pouch — that can store medicine for months so that ARVs can be administered as soon as a child is born, even if a health practitioner is not present. The pouch preserves the medication better than syringes or bottles.

Source: PBS (link opens in a new window)