PALO ALTO, California – Every year there are over twenty million infants born prematurely, and over four million of them will not live past their first month in the world. Most infants who are born prematurely are not able to survive due to where they are born. Infants who are born in the United States have a much higher survival rate than those in developing countries such as Niger or Chad. Recently, however, there have been striking discoveries by The United Health Organization. This organization states that over seventy five percent of infant lives could be saved if they had been kept warm after birth.
In developing countries, it is nearly impossible to afford treatment for a premature infant, since incubators could cost up to $20,000. Not only are the treatments very expensive, but people in developing countries often cannot rely on electrical equipment. Knowing that each treatment for every premature baby is nearly impossible, medical doctors had to find an inexpensive treatment to help keep newborns warm and safe from harm.
This is when the medical doctors turned to a portable infant warmer. It is designed to look like a newborn sleeping bag which wraps around the infant’s body and keeps it snug and warm. Next Big Future states that “the bag in turn contains a pouch of a wax-like phase-change material (PCM) that keeps babies warm for up to six hours at regular body temperatures.” This product is wonderful for parents in developing countries because it only takes thirty minutes of electricity and can keep an infant warm for over six hours.
These portable infant warmers are also relatively inexpensive, as each warmer only costs $200. This is a large difference compared to the $20,000 incubator. These warmers cost merely one percent of what an incubator would cost in a developing country, and each $200 warmer could save over three million lives per year.
An experiment took place in India, where nearly 1.2 million premature infants die each year. Embrace has stated that the results have been highly encouraging and that numerous lives have been saved due to this product. If each developing nation is provided the proper equipment to treat premature infants, millions of lives could be saved each year.
The founders of this invention are Jane Chen, Linus Liang, Naganand Murty, and Rahul Panicker. These four individuals cofounded the company titled Embrace, which has been the base of the invention of the portable infant warmer. These four individuals all share a common belief that if infants are kept warm, they can survive premature birth. The four then started to build the business while attending Stanford University’s Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability program. Hoping to make a difference in infant mortality rates in developing countries, they wished to help provide an inexpensive way to warm premature infants without the use of much electricity. By designing Embrace, the company has soared and has helped save the lives of numerous infants.
In an interview with Next Big Thing, Chen explained that, ”entrepreneurs often fall in love with their original product idea or business model and fail to listen to customers,” and continued by stating that “we, on the other hand, have no qualms about modifying our product features and pricing again and again until we find a solution that delivers the highest value to our customers at the lowest cost for them. For us, innovation is a dynamic process that never ends.”
Today, Embrace continues to enhance the product and its affordability. In countries such as India, where some individuals only survive on $2 a day, the company has provided an option to rent the warmers instead of buying them. Embrace is also enhancing its models, hoping to create a warmer which uses even less electricity than the current design does.
Currently, Embrace is testing its infant warmers at Stanford University. The founders hope to save at least 100,000 lives, if not more in the coming year. This product is the newest form of innovation to help save numerous lives in developing countries. By embracing this product, the infant warmer can embrace numerous infants and save the lives of many in the future.
– Grace Elizabeth Beal
Sources: WHO, Next Big Future, Embrace Global
Photo: BC Adoption