Warming the littlest hearts

By Lorrin Windahl

I love hearing about stories like this. Something that started with an idea in a classroom but developed into a realised product that is helping the most vulnerable be less vulnerable. That’s the story behind the Embrace Warmer developed by a group of Stanford University graduates.

The Embrace Warmer is a baby cocoon that gives hypothermic babies a fighting chance. In the developed world these newborns would be placed in incubators to regulate their temperature. In developing regions however, incubators are unaffordable and the alternatives are often ineffectual. Enter the Embrace Warmer which has been created to fill this gap.

The cocoon is low cost (at apparently 1% of that of a standard incubator), simple to use, can be reused 50 times, is easily cleaned and is portable. It uses a ‘phase change’ material that enables it to rapidly stabilize the temperature of the hypothermic baby.

The Embrace Warmer is a low cost solution for hypothermic babies in developing regions. Image by Embrace Global.

The Embrace Warmer is a low cost solution for hypothermic babies in developing regions. Image by Embrace Global.

The impact this product could have in India, which according to Unicef has the highest neonatal mortality rate in the world, is huge. It is just a matter of distribution and education.

But the product wasn’t just dreamed up and designed in a Stanford classroom. The students conducted field research to better understand the problem and the cultural implications. They also conducted in-country trials and testing to refine the product’s design. By having a clearer understanding of the need and the user group, the product is much more likely to truly address the problem and have a sustainable future.

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