Healthcare Devices for Maternity: Smart Bangles to prevent women from maternal deaths

Every day, approximately 830 women worldwide die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth complications to which smart bangle can be a rescue.

Almost all of these deaths take place in developing countries. In the United Kingdom, for example, only nine mothers died for every 100,000 babies born in 2015, whereas in Bangladesh, there were 176 maternal deaths for every 100,000 children.

According to USAID and the Population Council, the issue is especially pressing in rural areas of developing countries plagued by poverty and inadequate or unreachable health care services, where good health choices are frequently thwarted by deep-seated cultural practices such as belief in witchcraft or husbands and in-laws with decision-making power.

A new smart bangle is designed to prevent pregnant women from dying in rural south Asia

Grameen Intel Social Business Limited, a Bangladesh-based technology firm, believes it has an answer: a smart bangle made of water-resistant, highly durable plastic to withstand the rigours of rural life, developed by Grameen Intel Social Business Limited to improve maternal wellness and prenatal care.

The COEL (short for “carbon monoxide exposure limiter”), disguised as an ornate piece of jewellery to blend in with other bangles, is a smart wristband with a built-in speaker that educates women by having played a set of 80 pre-recorded pregnancy-related communications over the course of the pregnancy.

It sends out two messages per week, giving women advice on when and what to eat as well as reminders to visit the doctor.

Smart Bangle Features and Highlights

The bangle includes a built-in battery with a 10-month lifespan—enough to last the duration of a pregnancy. It can then be recharged and reused. The product will first be sold in Bangladesh and India before being introduced in Nepal.

The COEL bangle, as the name implies, also has sensors to detect and alert pregnant women if they are exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, which can be caused by “daily activities like cooking, which often involves burning wood, charcoal, or animal dung,” according to Grameen’s website.

Pregnancy carbon monoxide exposure has been linked to an increased risk of stillbirths and birth defects.

The bangle may provide temporary relief, but it does not assist women who are forced to work and cook in hazardous conditions to earn money or feed their families on a daily basis. “If the product tells me that the area I’m in has high levels of carbon monoxide and that I should leave the kitchen,” says Matthew Bunyi of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, South Asia.

Even with the COEL bangle’s advice, pregnant mothers may not have enough money to buy healthier foods, pay for medical services, or take time off work during their pregnancy.

Smart Bangle in India

In India, for example, most women must borrow phones from male family members; only 46% of women own and use a mobile phone. Over 81% of those who do have never used their phones to access the internet. That is why, according to Grameen’s chief operating officer Pavel Hoq, the company chose a standalone wearable rather than another mobile app.

“We realised that connecting with women in rural areas would be better with a wearable device designed specifically for women, something she would likely wear all the time,” Hoq told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

COEL does not require pairing with a smartphone or an internet connection to function.

Smart Bangle More Details

The maternity band, on the other hand, costs $12-15. Bunyi estimates that the average farmer in Bangladesh earns $3.75-5 per day—when they have work. “Many farmers frequently go without work,” Bunyi says, and “the price point (for COEL) appears to be high relative to how much they earn.”

It’s unclear whether rural Bangladeshi women could afford it without government subsidies or some sort of instalment plan. Grameen claims it lacks the infrastructure to handle subsidies or instalment payments, but would be willing to do so if a partner organisation stepped forward.

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