Wind-up heart rate monitor will help save Africa’s babies

6 October 2014

A wind-up fetal heart rate monitor that will help curb the high rates of preventable infant deaths in Africa is being further developed and commercialised in a partnership between PowerFree Education Technology, a South African non-profit organisation, and global technology firm, Royal Philips.

The collaboration will further develop, test and commercialise the wind-up Doppler Ultrasound Fetal Heart Rate Monitor, Philips announced in a statement last week.

The ultrasound device is said to accurately count the fetal heart rate while the mother is in labour. This can prevent infant death and even brain damage by helping a midwife or delivering nurse detect a slowing fetal heart rate, which may indicate that a fetus is not receiving enough oxygen.

Preventable complications

“Current methods to measure the fetal heart rate are either too expensive, too inaccurate or rely on replaceable batteries or electricity to run,” the company said. “The Wind-up Fetal Doppler is especially designed to empower midwives and delivering nurses to give better care.”

It is especially targeted at semi-urban and rural areas across Africa, where women and infants often die due to preventable complications during child birth.

PET, which has been working on the development of the hand-cranked, wind-up fetal doppler for “many years”, says it has verified the effect of the device in tests in Uganda, “where 60% more cases of abnormal fetal heart rate were detected in labor, compared to the standard Pinard-stethoscope”.

A first prototype of the wind-up doppler has been released by the Philips Africa Innovation Hub, which is the center for developing innovations “in Africa-for Africa” in the areas of health care, lighting and healthy living.

Frontline health care workers

The prototype is subject to clinical testing and regulatory approval, before release for general usage.

“We are very excited about the collaboration with Philips”, said Dr Francois Bonnici, director of PET and director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation at the University of Cape Town, He said he hoped the collaboration would make the “innovation available and affordable for frontline health care workers across the African continent.”

The reduction of child mortality and the improvement of maternal health are two key UN Millennium Development Goals.

Source: Royal Philips