Professor Vanora Hundley’s clean birth kit research in New York Times

The work of BU Midwifery Professor Vanora Hundley has been featured in a New York Times article, looking at how ‘frugal innovation’ can support the world’s poorest people.

Hundley has conducted extensive research into clean birth kits: moderately inexpensive supply kits designed to prevent the deaths of women from avoidable causes in pregnancy and childbirth, such as an unsterile environment, in the developing world.

Approximately eight hundred women die daily from these preventable circumstances. Kits provide the basic equipment needed for a safe, sterile delivery, including plastic sheeting to cover a dirt floor and soap for washing hands.

Hundley said: “There is a tendency for kits to be made in high-income countries with good intentions, to be distributed as a charitable exercise.”

However, charitable intentions have not always resulted in effectiveness, especially when the designer is not aware of the customs of the recipient, as Hundley recalled a midwife disposing of an entire, unused clean birthing kit because it contained an image of a woman delivering in a horizontal position, while women in southern Africa stand during delivery.

Clean birth kits that accommodate the recipient’s culture are used much more successfully.

Frugal innovation, the process of designing products to meet the specific needs of the world’s poorest people, is gaining popularity.

Designers aim to produce an inexpensive, lightweight and durable product made of sustainable and local materials that does more with less and meets the specific demands of the people.

Read the New York Times article in full.

By Harriet Gilbraith

Harriet is a student at Budmouth College in Weymouth, who is working at Bournemouth University in the Press and PR Department. She joined BU on a Sir Samuel Mico Scholarship, which provides 10 students from the college with work experience for four weeks over the summer.