Back in 2013, Time estimated that 5.21 million moms and 214,000 dads identified as stay-at-home parents in the United States. This number is even larger in India, but the stay-at-home parents there don’t have access to the latest pediatric medical technology that American parents do. That is, until now.
In India, one-third of all babies are born extremely underweight, and because of this, researchers there estimate that 92% of all Indian newborns are at risk for hypothermia. This is a dangerous illness in which a child’s internal temperature drops under 97.7 degrees Fahrenheit, putting the child at risk for severe infections, cardiac arrest, pneumonia, and death.
To combat premature infant deaths from hypothermia, the Bangalore-based startup Bempu has created a new piece of wearable technology. Developed with help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bempu’s baby bracelet will constantly monitor a baby’s internal temperature by touching the underside of the baby’s wrist. If the temperature oscillates either too high or too low, an alarm will go off until the baby’s temperature is regulated to a healthy temperature.
While some critics believe this bracelet is just a thermometer, Bempu officials explain that it provides an immediate call to action for parents. This is crucial because child hypothermia is easily avoidable if caught early enough.
“Hypothermia, in its nascent stage, can be easily preventable. It can be as simple as the parent wrapping the baby in an extra blanket or providing some skin-to-skin contact,” Gini Morgan, the director for public health at Bempu, explains to City Lab.
Bempu advises doctors to prescribe the bracelet to parents with underweight infants, as well as babies who spent time in the intensive care unit.
Considering that India’s rate of newborn hypothermia is rising fastest in its poorer communities, the startup is focusing its efforts in rural areas as a way to spread public health caregiving across the country. Cases of hypothermia often go unchecked at rural hospitals, making some parents unaware that their child is suffering from the high-risk illness.
Besides administering the bracelet to all parents, Bempu is concentrating their efforts on educating parents on the importance of consistent medical care for their children.
Pediatrician Jagdish Somanna explains, “The crucial thing is educating the parents and providing the supportive infrastructure at hospitals and at home. The bracelet is a great instrument to detect it, but we need to stop hypothermia in the first place.”