Simple solutions for the survival of children

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Simple solutions for the survival of children

Two of our guests this week are determined to achieve one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals: reducing child mortality. Tim Prestero, founder and CEO of Design that Matters, and Dr. Kate Rogers of UNICEF, are representative of the cooperation between private sector and governmental organizations in addressing issues like preterm birth.

While the solutions themselves are sometimes quite simple, implementing them in developing countries is not as straightforward. That’s what Prestero discovered with his invention, NeoNuture, an incubator that was named one of Time magazine’s top inventions of 2010, but was ultimately not distributed.

But that failure taught Prestero that the objective should be to create a device that is hard to use incorrectly, a maxim he kept in mind as they developed Firefly, a newborn phototherapy device used to treat jaundice in developing countries.

Simple solutions for the survival of children

Simple solutions for the survival of children

Two of our guests this week are determined to achieve one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals: reducing child mortality. Tim Prestero, founder and CEO of Design that Matters, and Dr. Kate Rogers of UNICEF, are representative of the cooperation between private sector and governmental organizations in addressing issues like preterm birth.

Jaundice affects two-thirds of babies born worldwide, and 10% of those babies require treatment. One simple and effective treatment is phototherapy: shining blue light on the surface of a newborn’s body. But traditional phototherapy devices are sometimes used improperly. Prestero’s team found that hospitals in developing countries were putting multiple babies under the same device, and that mothers were covering their babies in blankets, both actions rendering the device ineffective.

With this understanding, Firefly was designed to be hard to use the wrong way. Light shines from both the top and the bottom of the device, which fits only one newborn.

“The biggest difference between design and engineering, as I’ve learned, is that in design, as opposed to engineering, there’s no such thing as a dumb user. What that means is that there are only dumb products. … Firefly’s really designed to be hard to use wrong. The right way to use it is the easiest way to use it,” said Prestero.

Firefly is just one example of the available technologies advancing the goal of child survival.

UNICEF, together with the governments of Ethiopia, India, and the United States, has mobilized the world to support the commitment to end preventable child deaths through a pledge, A Promise Renewed, which has now been signed by 178 countries.

“We’ve seen over two dozen countries now sharpening their national strategies around maternal, newborn, and child deaths and setting…targets and really taking steps to make sure that these solutions get to the kids who need them,” said Rogers.

Prestero and Rogers joined Mike Walter to discuss implementing simple solutions to infant mortality worldwide.

Follow Design That Matters and Tim Prestero on Twitter: @dtm_tweets @tprestero

Follow UNICEF on Twitter: @UNICEF

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