An 8g bracelet, Bempu, from Bengaluru is saving lives of babies in far off Papua New Guinea (PNG). The bracelet tied on a baby’s wrist gives out alerts whenever temperature drops, a condition called hypothermia seen in newborns with low birth weight. Bempu is a made-in-India hypothermia alert device and was innovated in 2016 by Bengaluru-based Ratul Narain, a Stanford University alumnus. Now, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) is using the device extensively in PNG to save newborns from extreme cold and sudden drop in temperature.
When worn by a newborn, the blue light on the bracelet flashes if the temperature is normal. If the temperature goes below the normal 36.5 degree Celsius or 97.7 Fahrenheit, the bracelet flashes orange and beeps an alarm, calling for immediate medical attention. “The pilot was launched in PNG. It has been very successful in saving newborns and in creating awareness about hypothermia, making parents understand the need for kangaroo mother care. So far, we have used it among 1,300 children. Among them, 250 weighed less than 2.5kg at birth. Bempu alerts in case of 13 babies had parents rushing them to hospitals in time,” said Dr Ghanshyam Sethy, Unicef health specialist working in PNG. “The simple invention monitors a newborn’s temperature for signs of hypothermia,” read a Unicef post on its FB page, which was accompanied by a a photo of newborn Jazeline. “When little Jazeline starts getting cold, the bracelet beeps, so mum and dad know its time for another long, warm hug,” it added. Narain said it’s incredible to see Bempu bracelets saving lives around the world. “I am grateful for the amazing team, global funders and partners that made this possible. But we have a long way to go,” he added. Before using the device, Unicef put the bracelets through diagnostic accuracy, sensitivity and specificity tests between AprilJuly 2017 in four general hospitals of PNG. From then to February 2018, 1,300 units have been used on newborns with low birth weight. The facility has so far been used largely in Henganofi district, Eastern Highlands province of the country. It was used for children with less than 2.5kg birth weight. Eastern Highlands province was chosen for the pilot as it’s one of the coldest terrains in PNG. However, Dr Sethy said that despite being user-friendly and saving lives, the device has certain challenges like cost, just a month’s battery life and the fact that it’s made for single use.
“The cost is Rs 2,000 per unit, which is very expensive, considering it can be used only for one child. Currently, we are using it on newborns with low birth weight for a month. Hypothermia also affects babies who are 2-3 months old. But as it is expensive and cannot be reused after a month, there is scope for further development of the device. It would be great if the device can also sense hyperthermia or sudden increase in temperature,” said Dr Sethy. Police said Reddy gave his wife a cold drink laced with sleeping tablets on Saturday and smothered her with a pillow when she was drowsy. To hush up the case, Reddy put a water heater coil in her hand and took a picture of it as proof that she had been electrocuted.