It’s not baby’s first tanning bed

A prototype of the Bili-Hut

(Donna Brezinski/Little Sparrows Technologies & Boston Children’s Hospital)

Over on Boston Children’s Hospital’s Vector, I wrote recently about the problem of newborn jaundice in the developing world. Jaundice in nearly 100 percent treatable, but many babies in resource-poor countries still die from it because they can’t get life-saving phototherapy. Donna Brezinski, one of the hospital’s neonatologists, explains:

“[A]bout 70 percent of India, for example, doesn’t have access to the electrical grid, which right now means that children in these areas just can’t access phototherapy. Even the areas that have hospitals with phototherapy equipment often have devices that either don’t deliver therapeutic light doses or are in disrepair. Which is why between 15 and 30 percent of neonatal deaths in rural India are either directly attributable or associated with jaundice.”

She’s working on a device she calls the Bili-Hut, a collapsible, LED-lined tent that can run off of all kinds of power sources, including a car battery, and deliver the right kind of light at the right intensity in, she hopes, any part of the world. And she designed it at her kitchen table, using off-the-shelf parts.

“We want to make this appropriate for use in developing countries,” Brezinski explains. “It can work completely off the grid. And we’re trying to keep fabrication simple, so that local textile mills or other factories could make them. That will keep costs low, add to the local economy and make it easy for clinics nearby to acquire them.

“Our most recent set of prototypes,” she notes, “was built by a company that makes roofs for convertible cars.”

If you’re interested, hop over to Vector and check it out.

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