OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Enhanced Kangaroo Mother Care

[Updated 1/7] Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is a proven WHO-recommended practice that enables mothers to keep their premature babies warm through skin-to-skin contact. There are practical challenges to this wonderful practice being performed 24/7 leading to lower adoption and ineffectiveness. The Embrace infant warmer is a proven innovation that helps babies in developing countries maintain their body temperature with intermittent or no electricity. It has already reached over 100,000 babies across multiple countries. Our idea is to develop one or more product extensions to make it easier for mothers to administer KMC, thereby increasing its uptake and enabling extended care to the baby through a combination of KMC and the Embrace warmer.

Photo of Rahul Panicker
40 30

Written by

Keerthi is a new mother in a small village in Karnataka, India. She gave birth to her daughter at a government facility in her district. Her baby was born low-birth-weight, but was otherwise healthy. She was kept in the Embrace warmer next to Keerthi's bed to help maintain her body temperature.

Meanwhile, Keerthi was trained in KMC by the hospital staff. The government hospital, however, was not a place which afforded Keerthi enough privacy to take off her blouse to provide skin-to-skin care. After reaching home, she periodically provided KMC. But, given her other chores and the lack of privacy in a joint-family home, she could only provide intermittent KMC. She wishes she could have done more for her baby. But, at least, her baby survived. She is one of the lucky ones.

KMC is a proven intervention widely promoted by the WHO. Its benefits go beyond warmth and into enhanching breast feeding, mother-baby bonding, and even neuro-development. Unfortunately, despite having been around for 30 years, adoption rates are less than 5%. The Embrace infant warmer has been deployed widely in hospitals in India, and in smaller numbers in Africa and South East Asia, reaching over 100,000 babies since 2012. This innovation has won numerous awards, including being recognized by the WHO as one of the top innovations in global health in 2012. It is designed and manufactured with European medical device certifications. And it has been found to be so easy to use that hospital staff let mothers and family members operate it!

Can we now use this device as a vehicle to enhance adoption of KMC? How about making the device wearable? Or a component that allows seamless transition between the warmer and the mother's skin? How about a training program that integrates both? Can we use technology to transition women to KMC by building their confidence? Can we provide the mother the right tools so that her intent to do all she can for her baby is truly Amplified?

[Update 1/7] Our hypothesis is that the Embrace warmer and its extension(s) can help address some of the reasons behind KMC not being practiced as much, thereby improving the uptake of KMC and enabling extended care for the baby through a combination of KMC and the Embrace warmer. For instance, we are prototyping a sling-like add-on to our baby sleeping bag that would enable mothers to easily and comfortably place babies on their chest. Another idea is to have the Embrace warmer’s carton box foldable such that it can be modified into a structure that supports a comfortable posture for mothers to administer KMC. Another idea is to have a translucent conical enclosure that could hanged from the celing down and give privacy to mothers to administer KMC. We could also have a running animation that explains KMC on a small LCD screen on the heater (a component of the Embrace warmer). This would help improve awareness. Also, the presence of a warmer in the home could serve as a reminder about the importance of warmth and KMC. We could think about other ideas such as mandating KMC before the Embrace warmer can be used again via sensors that would enable activation/de-activation. In the long-term, we envisage healthcare workers being equipped with the Embrace warmer and extensions, which they can deploy in families that need them and take them back after use.
We have developed prtototypes of some of these ideas and tested them in the field. Initial feedback seems to indicate strong interest for the Growing Indicator Blanket, Baby Carrier and The Swing Hut. More information can be found in the downloadable documents on the right. 

The key would be to identify 2-3 most important reasons for KMC not being administered through more structured research, brainstorn and develop even more solutions, and test these and existing prototypes more rigorously. This is where the OpenIDEO community and this project could really help us.

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

Like Keerthi's daughter, 15 million low-birth-weight babies are born world over every year. Hypothermia is one of the most common ailments they suffer from. Some 3 million of these babies die in the first month of life. Mothers like Keerthi are spread over Africa, Latin America, Middle East, South Asia, and Asia. Can we do something to bring life-saving innovations like KMC to more mothers in these countries? We can start right here in Karnataka, India.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

1) Go to one of the hospitals nearby where the product is being used, and where mothers are already being trained in KMC. Observe. 2) Make a few prototypes of possible product modifications. Consider co-creating with the nurses and doctors who are familiar with both Embrace and KMC. 3) Get feedback and iterate with the moms. [Update 1/7] We have started early testing and received some great feedback. More information can be found in the downloadable documents.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

We would like design support in making this happen. We believe the key challenge in making this happen will be human factors. These include: 1) Intuitive and easy to use modified product. 2) Ensuring mothers and staff feel safe and successful in the practice. 3) Easy communication methods and tools that the staff can use to train mothers. 4) Ways in which mothers can train other mothers in their hospital ward or village community.

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am ready and interested in testing this idea and making it real in my community.
View more

Attachments (3)

Design Prototypes and testing_for uploading.pdf

Design prototypes and initial feedback from the field


User experience map


Join the conversation:

Photo of Adam Camenzuli

Looked great when you showed me the carrier in Arusha!

Photo of Rahul Panicker

Hi Adam,
How are you doing? Yes, we have been working on various ideas over the last few months and getting some useful feedback!

Photo of Adam Camenzuli

Doing great - keep up the great work!

View all comments