Leveraging Technology to Level Global Inequalities in Neonatal Health

Alexandra Nemeth

Content Marketing Manager at MovingWorlds.org

The first 28 days of life – the neonatal period – are the most vulnerable, but a baby’s chance for survival is not evenly distributed globally. Sustainable Development Goal 3 is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages, and that’s something that begins at birth.

Neonatal mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) in 2018, by country (via UNICEF)

Sadly, half of the world’s newborns die at home, and more than 99% of all deaths occur in developing countries. The 2019 UNICEF Child Mortality Report estimates that last year alone, 2.5 million newborns died – mostly from preventable causes, like hypothermia. 

BEMPU Health is an inspiring organization on the forefront of trying to change that. The India-based social enterprise has developed innovative, life-saving health products to give every child a chance to live a full and healthy life. Recognizing the tremendous potential of BEMPU’s products to level out global inequalities, Siemens Stiftung (foundation) teamed up with MovingWorlds to help BEMPU access capacity-building support of experteers as part of the empowering people. Expert program.

Technological Innovation to Fight Neonatal Hypothermia

65% of all neonatal deaths are associated with hypothermia, which is often referred to as the “silent killer” because warning signs are easy to miss. BEMPU’s two signature products, the TempWatch and KangaSling, empower parents to better manage their newborn’s health with regular temperature monitoring and early intervention.

A baby wearing the BEMPU TempWatch

Named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2017, the BEMPU TempWatch is a device worn by newborns that alerts parents with an alarm if the baby’s temperature drops to critical levels. Parents can then intervene using BEMPU’s Kangaroo Care Sling, which keeps the baby in skin-to-skin contact to restore temperature back to safe levels. These devices have helped over 28,000 newborns so far in India and other low and middle income countries.

A mother using the KangaSling to keep her baby warm and healthy

Expanding the Reach of BEMPU’s Life-Saving Technologies

Last year, the BEMPU team was in the process of redesigning its marketing strategy to expand the reach of its life-saving technologies. To help develop the content to support its efforts, BEMPU hosted epExpert Julie-Ann Sherlock.

In addition to having the skills to help BEMPU achieve its marketing goals, Julie-Ann also felt a personal connection to BEMPU’s work. She shared, “As a freelance content writer working as a digital nomad in Asia, I felt this was a great chance to use my skills to give back to the world in a meaningful way. I have been blessed with two healthy sons, now adults, and realise how lucky I am to not have had to worry about their development. It was a privilege to get to contribute to this inspiring social enterprise helping other babies get that same chance.” 

Before Julie-Ann and the team could design the content, they first had to identify and understand the needs of their target audience. BEMPU’s interventions have the highest impact in underserved communities where hospitals are under-resourced and parents lack awareness and education about newborn care, particularly in terms of the risks associated with low birth weight.

According to BEMPU’s founder, Ratul Narain, “In India, one in three newborns suffers from low birth weight or is under 2.5 kg…[After being discharged from neonatal intensive care unit] up to 15% of low-weight newborns die at home due to complications like infections and hypothermia.” 

To make a difference at this critical juncture, BEMPU and Julie-Ann focused on creating content that generated awareness of the issue, educated both medical staff and new parents about early warning signs, and demonstrated the effectiveness of BEMPU’s technologies to save lives through early intervention. 

With these strategic goals in mind, the BEMPU team collaborated with Julie-Ann to develop a variety of content campaigns and resources, including:

  • A monthly newsletter for all supporters about BEMPU’s latest research and products
  • A monthly Newborn Circular newsletter aimed at updating doctors and nurses on the latest research and best practices regarding neonatal care
  • A educational video for medical providers summarizing the results of BEMPU’s clinical studies on the effectiveness of its interventions
  • A “What You Should Know When You Take Your Baby Home” eBook for parents of NICU babies 
  • A collection of impact stories highlighting real families empowered to detect problems in their babies and intervene early to save their babies lives
Julie-Ann with the team at BEMPU’s office in Bangalore

Reflecting on how this project advances the overall mission of improving maternal and child health outcomes in developing countries, BEMPU’s Priyanka Choubey shared, “We hope this will foster a more educated generation of parents and increase the lifespan of infants in India. These materials will help increase the impact of our interventions and reduce neonatal mortality and morbidity nationwide.”

After completing the project, Julie-Ann shared that stretching beyond her comfort zone changed her perspective and helped her clarify her purpose moving forwards. During her time in Bangalore, Julie-Ann developed a strong bond with the BEMPU team, and said that “The work that BEMPU does is phenomenal. This simple, affordable technology has saved babies from Bangalore to Benin, and they aren’t stopping there. They continue to innovate and develop technology that makes the world safer for new babies.”

Working Together to Make Basic Services Available to Everyone 

Around the world, organizations like BEMPU are developing technological innovations with the potential to address some of our greatest global challenges. By linking these social entrepreneurs with skilled practitioners, Siemens Stiftung and MovingWorlds can help them address knowledge and workforce gaps to translate that potential into realized impact. 

What barriers could your organization overcome with capacity-building support? If you’re an empowering people. Award winner, contact us at match@movingworlds.org to get started sourcing skilled support to advance your mission. If you’re a professional who wants to support inspiring organizations like BEMPU with your skills, learn more about experteering with the empowering people. Network here.