Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, has been included as a “Developing-World” and “Health” categories finalist in the ‘Fast Company - World Changing Ideas’ awards. The company was selected for its development of a pregnancy toolkit aimed at the early detection and referral of high-risk pregnancies in disadvantaged or fragile socio-cultural communities, such as those affected by war and violence, and with limited access to healthcare. The development of the toolkit was sponsored by the Philips Foundation*, a registered charity and Philips based on the needs of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“Innovation doesn’t have to be high-tech to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives, but it does need to be developed collaboratively by experts who know and care about what matters most – understanding the needs of the people they are trying to help,” said Sean Carney, Chief Designer Officer at Philips. “That’s why Philips and the Philips Foundation supported a key need identified by the ICRC in countries affected by war and violence. Leveraging the key insights of healthcare professionals on the ground in Africa, we co-created a solution that will help to identify pregnancies that pose a risk to mother and baby so they can be referred to a medical center.”
“Together, we engaged in an entirely complementary design process where Philips brought the expertise in project and product design, and the ICRC brought the needs and expertise from the field,” said Stephane du Mortier, head of ICRC’s primary health care services unit. “ICRC midwives from contexts across Africa worked with Philips to develop relevant and functional products, which meet the needs of the women they are destined towards and are adapted to their contextual and social realities.”
Mother and childcare is a key focus of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, and at the heart of what both Philips and the ICRC do every day. Up to 20% of pregnancies worldwide are estimated to be ‘at-risk’, with 99% of the resulting maternal deaths occurring in developing countries. Higher than average maternal mortality rates are also experienced in fragile communities, such as those ravaged by natural disaster or war, or where access to healthcare is difficult. With limited resources available in these areas, healthcare solutions need to be simple, easy-to-use, educative, attuned to cultural norms and importantly not be dependent on electricity or batteries.
The High-Risk Pregnancy Toolkit comprises a durable dual-function carry bag containing a pocket-sized waterproof and tear-proof set of cards, which doubles as a teaching aid, plus a battery-less fetoscope (fetal stethoscope) that allows both the health worker and expectant mother to hear the baby’s heartbeat. The simple text and graphics used on each card are easily adapted to different languages and audiences. The pictures which will be represented on each card are already being tested in 5 ICRC-supported health centers in Africa, and a French-language version and versions specifically designed for more conservative communities are planned for later this year. The ‘Heart for 2’ fetoscope is specially designed to pick up a baby’s heartbeat when placed directly on the skin or through thin clothing, making its use equally acceptable in cultures where women feel uncomfortable about exposing bare skin. Prototypes of the fetoscope are planned for future field tests by the ICRC.
* The Philips Foundation is a registered charity committed to affecting lasting change on a global level.