India’s ‘small help’ to fight hypothermia, Bracelets from Bengaluru saving babies in Papua New Guinea

NewsBharati    21-Mar-2019

Bengaluru, Mar 21: The Bempu bracelet from Bengaluru, the only 8-gram bracelet was actually saving the children from Papua New Guinea. The bracelet tied on a baby’s wrist gives out alerts whenever temperature drops, a condition called hypothermia seen in newborns with low birth weight.

 

Bempu is made in India Hypothermia alert device and the Bempu was invented in 2016 by Bengaluru-based Ratul Narain, who is an alumnus of Stanford University.

Currently, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is using the device extensively in PNG, in southwestern Pacific, to save newborns from extreme cold and sudden drop in temperature.

 

Before using the device, Unicef put the bracelets through diagnostic accuracy, sensitivity and specificity tests between April-July 2017 in four general hospitals of PNG. From then to February 2018, 1,300 units have been used on newborns with low birth weight. The facility has so far been used largely in Henganofi district, Eastern Highlands province of the country. It was used for children with less than 2.5kg birth weight. Eastern Highlands province was chosen for the pilot as it’s one of the coldest terrains in PNG.

When worn by a newborn, the blue light on the bracelet flashes if the temperature is normal. If the temperature goes below the normal 36.5 degree Celsius or 97.7 Fahrenheit, the bracelet flashes orange and beeps an alarm, calling for immediate medical attention.

“The pilot was launched in PNG. It has been very successful in saving newborns and in creating awareness about hypothermia, making parents understand the need for kangaroo mother care. So far, we have used it for 1,300 children. Among them, 250 weighed less than 2.5kg at birth. Bempu alerts in case of 13 babies had parents rushing them to hospitals in time,” said Dr. Ghanshyam Sethy, Unicef health specialist working in PNG.

Also added, The invention monitors a newborn’s temperature for signs of hypothermia,” “When Jazeline starts getting cold, the bracelet beeps, so mum and dad know its time for another long, warm hug.

Narain Said, it is incredible to see Bempu bracelets saving lives around the world. I am grateful for the amazing team, global funders, and partners that made this possible. But we have a long way to go.

However, Dr. Sethy said that despite being user-friendly and saving lives, the device has certain challenges like cost, just a month’s battery life and the fact that it’s made for single use.

He said, “The cost is Rs 2,000 per unit, which is very expensive, considering it can be used only for one child. Currently, we are using it on newborns with low birth weight for a month. Hypothermia also affects babies who are 2-3 months old. But as it is expensive and cannot be reused after a month, there is scope for further development of the device. It would be great if the device can also sense hyperthermia or sudden increase in temperature”.

Soon Rechargeable device in the market

Rutal Narain said, “We are working on improving the product’s battery life. Most babies don’t need monitoring after 30 days as they grow and put on weight. The battery makes for most the bracelet and its tough to pack more battery in it”.

He said the effect is on to reduce the cost. Now that we have achieved volume, we have been able to lower the price for governments and donor partners to Rs. 1,250. To lower the cast further, we are launching a rechargeable bracelet in August that can be used for multiple babies. The effective price for the battery would be less than Rs. 100.

So far 15,000 units of Bempu bracelets have been used across the world.