HANOI, Vietnam — Infant mortality in developing countries is a serious problem and a key obstacle to helping fight poverty worldwide. Each year, nearly 4 million newborns die from readily treatable diseases; 99 percent of these occur in the developing world.
Despite this startling figure, neonatal care for developing countries remains one of the least invested and researched branches of medicine in the research and development community. The result is costly and inappropriate technologies which are inaccessible to developing communities.
Fortunately, help for fighting infant mortality is on the way.
Established in 2003 and headquartered in Hanoi, Vietnam, Medical Technology Transfer and Services works to adapt western medical devices and technologies to the needs of hospitals and clinics in developing countries.
MTTS’s vision is a world where infants are given an equal chance at a healthy life, regardless of where they are born. By pairing custom-designed and low-cost technologies with targeted training, MTTS is helping to provide healthcare for common pathologies which afflict newborns in developing communities in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, the Philippines and East Timor.
One of the technologies that MTTS is currently working to adapt to the requirements of developing world clinics is the BiliBed. The BiliBed is a revolutionary new treatment in the fight against infant jaundice. The device works by combining a Blue Light LED and infant warmer into a bed which supports newborns and eliminates jaundice. Small and easy to use, the Bilibed can be placed next to the mother allowing for easy baby care, while providing direct contact with skin, rapidly affecting the newborns blood to eliminate jaundice faster.
Unfortunately, this life changing device may not reach enough markets fast enough. Currently, the majority of MTTS’s sales have been to NGOs and development agencies which purchase their medical devices with money from grants and donations and then donate them to public hospitals. This donation-reliant structure has the unfortunate problem of limited distribution, limiting the number of lives that are saved.
In order to save as many live as possible, MTTS is working to shift its business model from a donation-reliant structure to a “commercially viable and profitable social business” over the course of the next five years.
TO that end, MTTS is participating in this year’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) Accelerator program, held at Santa Clara University from August 14-22.
Each year, the GSBI Accelerator invites and mentors a group of well-established “social enterprises”—non-profit organizations or for-profit businesses which focus on addressing social and environmental issues—to help them address challenges in their business model before showcasing their businesses to potential investors.
The Borgen Project got in touch with MTTS’s Chief Operations Officer, Gregory Dajer, to ask him about his experiences with the GSBI Accelerator program.
What has been the most difficult challenge facing MTTS?
One of the biggest challenges is entering new countries and building [a]credible offer for local users. Doctors in developing countries are used [to receiving]so much useless “help.” Medical equipment delivery comes together with big responsibility and the need for support, that’s why our machines are designed to be cheap and simple to use and repair. We’re looking for partners experienced in local markets who can help us reach out [to]local resources that can support our program. We cooperate with local clinicians, nurses and especially technicians who are able to service our machines without sending them back to the factory.
How have the GSBI Accelerator program or your mentors helped you address this challenge?
GSBI offers great access to [a]network of people interested in what we’re doing. Many of them have existing operations in the countries where we are interested [in building a]new distribution network. GSBI mentors contribute with their great experience and good understanding of the challenges we face in the developing countries.
How will overcoming this challenge help address poverty or help the poor/poor communities?
Building [a]good distribution network will provide better and consistent access to medical care. Our goal is to make sure that each machine will work for at least seven years. The design focus on low running expenses…should make the therapy available for those families who were not able to afford that before. As [a]result, infant mortality and morbidity should decrease not only preventing human tragedies but also contributing to [the]local economy.
With a solid foundation in appropriate technology, a vision to help developing communities and the leadership and experience afforded by the GSBI Accelerator program, MTTS should be reaching larger markets to put an end to unnecessary infant mortality in no time.
– Pedram Afshar