Indian engineers at Philips have created an entire ecosystem to ensure a healthy mother and child
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, June 6 2016: Wellness begins in the womb. Evolving global awareness of health hazards has triggered medical thinking that care for a baby must begin even before it is born -- and it becomes critical in the first hours after birth. A rapidly deteriorating air quality poses additional hazards well into a child's early years.
At its annual showcase last week, doctors and engineers of the Philips Innovation Centres (PICs) in Bangalore and Pune joined to unveil a complete ecosystem of solutions to ensure the health of a child (and the mother). Every product was developed in India and many are to be manufactured in the country, for domestic and international markets.
One of the latest tools to flow from PIC, is the Fetal Heart Rate Monitor, a handy, battery-driven system, with a built-in loudspeaker, that enables a health worker to listen to the heart beat of the fetus and detect any abnormality. The device is part of the arsenal developed for Auxilliary Nurse-Midwives or "Asha" workers in India, to do Mobile Obstetrical Monitoring (MOM) , especially in rural areas . To help them collect and transmit the data on the mother-to-be's well being, without any paperwork, the Asha behns use an app which works on the most basic Android phone.
The first two hours after birth are the most critical for a child, especially one that is born prematurely. In earlier years PIC scientists have created the Efficia range of infant warmers and incubators for babies born 26 to 30 weeks ahead of term. The warmer almost resembles the pouch in which a kangaroo nurtures her young!
To prevent jaundice after birth, it is necessary to monitor what is known as bilirubin -- but pricking a new born infant can be traumatic, so they have created an LED device, called BiliChek that can be attached externally to the forehead.... and a BiliTx, an LED embedded blanket in which the baby can be swaddled. India loses over 3 lakh babies every year in the early hours and days after birth -- and these tools aim to bring that number down. The Efficia range and some of these products for premature babies have since been technology-transferred to other manufacturers.
In the early years of a baby, pneumonia has loomed as an increasing hazard. Philips has developed a respiration monitor that can be strapped to the child's chest to monitor breathing and set off an alarm in case of abnormality. The Made-in-India device has been used with great success in Africa since October last -- and an updated version will soon be released to manufacturing here, very shortly.
World Environment Day, yesterday brought its annual quota of scares about the poor air quality in so many Indian metros -- exceeding WHO-prescribed level for PM or particulate matter-- dust, soot, smoke. PM2.5 or particles smaller than 2.5 microns ( a human hair is 100 microns thick -- or 40 times larger) are particularly dangerous since they straight into the lungs. And you are not safe just because you remain indoors.
Which is why many parents of small children or those with old people at home, are turning to indoor air purifiers to neutralize airborne hazards. Last week Philips launched the Series 3000 indoor air purifier -- the newest in a range, that will soon be manufactured in India. It is by no means the only such solution in the market. But it is arguably the only one that is part of a continuum of tools and solutions, crafted in the country that help children stay safe in their most vulnerable years, from womb to nursery.