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This Incubator Has Saved 200,000 Premature Babies

Grant Whittington headshotWords by Grant Whittington
New Activism
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In 2013, the World Health Organization reported that preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children 5 years and younger, responsible for almost a million deaths that year. The WHO also estimated that 75 percent of those children could have been saved had there been a cost-effective intervention.

Enter Embrace.

The Embrace Warmer is a cheap infant incubator that creates heat and fights off neonatal hypothermia -- and it's credited with 200,000 babies saved and counting. The most impressive feature of the baby cocoon is the price, which is affordable in the countries most affected by preterm birth complications — India, China and Nigeria lead the pack.

Embrace first released its warmer in 2011 and the design didn’t take long to save lives. A two-pound baby boy left to die on a street corner in Henan, China, was rescued by a Beijing orphanage and wrapped in the infant warmer for a full month. The boy survived and is now part of a family residing in Chicago, thanks to the waxy insert capable of maintaining 98.6 degrees for eight straight hours.

The Beijing orphanage was lucky enough to have an Embrace Warmer in its possession, in large part due to the inexpensiveness of the product. Embrace costs $400, compared to $20,000 for a traditional incubator.

The product was conceptualized following a class project from graduate students at Stanford University. They were challenged to create a cheap alternative to protect babies who didn’t have the body fat to regulate their own temperature. The product has grown since its introduction five years ago, reaching new deals with manufacturers and joining Thrive Networks, an international nonprofit looking to improve health conditions and standards in Asia and Africa.

Embrace primarily works in India and Uganda, with additional local partners implementing a program in Afghanistan, according to its website. The incubator treats more than 1,000 babies in Embrace’s program sites each month.

Image credit: Annie Marie Musselman, used with permisison

Grant Whittington headshotGrant Whittington

Based in Washington, DC, Grant works as a program assistant at SEEP Network, an international development nonprofit. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. Grant is passionate about humanitarianism and finding sustainable approaches to international development. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.

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