Maternova Employs Technology to Create New Solutions to the Age-old Problem of Maternal Mortality
Thursday, July 14, 2011
One of the oldest, most respected professions in the world is midwifery. And yet, midwives working in developing countries often lack simple resources like electric lights and towels. Meg Wirth founded the web-based startup Maternova, which provides vital obstetric tools and information to midwives and maternity hospitals around the world. Founded in 2009, the mission-driven for-profit venture aims to use the data-dissemination powers of technology to reach maternity care workers most in need of resources, in order to combat one of the leading causes of death for women globally — maternal mortality.
Dowser: What are Maternova’s products and how do you bring in revenue?
Meg Wirth, founder: There are two main revenue streams. The first is the product for midwives and frontline providers. We sell things either individually or bundled – such as a ’Power Pak’ – headlamps and a rotary mobile phone charger – so the midwife is able to see and also call for help. We have another more clinically-oriented pack.
The other revenue stream is the mapping tool that is basically software as a service. That’s something people like to license. It’s a data visual-mapping tool that allows a group to keep track of a set of facilities -where they are, what the quality of care is. One place we’ve done is in Mexico – where for Chiapas, we’ve done 42. The data has to come from on-the-ground organizations, so in that case it’s the Safe Motherhood Committee.
Do you follow up with health care workers to see how the products have been used?
We did a lot of testing of the products, and different bundles. We got feedback from a midwife on the border of the Congo. They evaluated the paks and provided detailed feedback in English. They noted, for example that the towel we had included for the mother to deliver on would be better utilized to ’catch’ the baby and warm the baby. In many cases the nurses use their own neck scarves to wipe and catch the baby.
Then our favorite story: in Haiti, the packs have become the standard gift for midwives graduating from their programs. It helps to keep midwives safe – having light and power to call when they are working in refugee camps is really critical. It’s got the dual purpose of protecting these valuable women – trained midwives can be rare.