Stories about: Rwanda

Hot enough for you? Keeping babies warm in developing countries

Newborns like this child have a high risk of hypothermia, even in warm climates. An innovative warming pad could be one potential fix. (Courtesy of Anne Hansen)

In the United States, we rarely worry about newborn babies getting dangerously cold, but in poorer countries the basic provision of warmth can be extremely challenging. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) considers newborn thermal care a critical part of neonatal care, hypothermia remains a leading cause of sickness and death globally.

Even in places with warm climates such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, babies can quickly lose heat, and how hypothermia in newborns is treated reveals a dramatic contrast with the developed world.

The playing field may soon get more level, thanks to a device Boston Children’s Hospital’s Anne Hansen, MD, MPH, has been developing with collaborators at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technology (LIGTT) since visiting Rwanda in 2010. That device is a warming pad that can keep a newborn warm for hours at a time with no electricity, and which can be used in a home, clinic, hospital or transport setting.

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