In 2008, Stanford graduate students were challenged by their professor to design an incubator for newborns which would cost less than 1% of the prohibitive $20,000 price tag attached to typical hospital incubators. Newborn incubators are essential to neonatal care, when hypothermia is a leading cause of death. In the U.S., few babies face the threat of being too cold because incubators are readily available to stave off the danger. But internationally – especially in developing countries where electricity is not readily available – mothers face much grimmer prognoses for babies born prematurely.
According to one Stanford student, Jane Chen, who rose to the challenge of designing an accessible incubator alternative, four million newborns die every year because of their inability to stay warm enough to sustain life. The Stanford team did produce an alternative, the Embrace Nest, and has spent years honing the technology they conceived in college.
The team moved to India after graduation, where countless newborns face the crisis of hypothermia every day. In some villages, they say, mothers do not name their newborns for one month after birth because of the likelihood that the baby will not survive beyond that timeframe. The Embrace warmer is changing that in a transformative way.
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According to a recent interview with Chen, the Embrace has saved 150,000 newborns from hypothermic death since the product’s inception. In 2011, Chen said that her team of brilliant colleagues – who were trained in fields including electrical engineering, computer science, and aerospace engineering – could have taken much more lucrative jobs. But instead, they have dedicated their time and expertise to lowering infant mortality in developing countries. That sounds like true Pro-Life dedication to us!