Developing Technology For Developing Countries

We’ve all seen it: movies like Beyond Borders and the show  M.A.S.H., which I’ve seen a hundred times, where doctors are operating on and treating patients in tents with flickering lights and less than sterile conditions. It seems glamorous, heroic, and has a certain romanticism attached to it. But it’s real people in real world situations in war-torn or developing countries doing their best with very little.It’s easy to put that out of our minds in a western culture where you see the inside of an operating room for maybe ten seconds before you’re put under and operated on in a sterilized condition only to wake up perfectly healthy and craving a hamburger.

Technology advancement doesn’t just belong in our pristine hospitals. Some might argue the real advancement comes in when people collaborate to make medical treatment in underprivileged places safer, more effective, and more accessible in developing countries where it is needed most. The same rules to which we are accustomed don’t apply in these hospitals under these conditions. It takes being creative, resourceful, and innovative to be effective.

Cleanliness is next to godliness! One woman is empowering nurses, as well as doctors, in a big way to make developments that mean the world in the third world. Knowing she could never be a doctor or a nurse, Anna Young, from MIT began by building Solar Powered Sterilization Tools for use in developing countries, using the power of sunlight where there are no other sources of real power. Young is hoping to speed up the process of development of these kinds of things by founding MakerNurse and MakerHealth.

“If anything we need a better way to exchange information, to exchange prototypes and to build up the capacity of all healthcare professionals and patients so that they can be better makers and better peers in evaluating the solutions.”  – Anna Young

Thinking inside the box. Not only are sterile instruments important, a sterile environment is crucial as well. Something new is being developed by Douglas Schuler with his graduate students out of Rice University. It’s called Sterile Box. Some people use shipping containers to build really cool homes, and now they are being used to create a sterile environment for medical and surgical procedures. Like Anna Young, this team uses solar energy to power the station, built into a standard 20-foot steel shipping container that supplies everything necessary for a successful outcome.

The sun isn’t always shining. So, Schuler’s team focused on building a self powered system that could be used anywhere, anytime; rain or shine, day or night. They have achieved near-perfect results in over 61 trials, and will be teaming up with Baylor University to test their Smart Pod system which also houses a shipping container. The teams will test the performance of these technologies in Malawi, 2017.

LIfe and limb are sometimes greatly altered after an injury and a lifesaving surgery. A London based company called 3D Lifeprints uses 3D prosthetics to open up a whole new world of possibilities with its inexpensive production, low maintenance, comfort, and functionability.

Clare Scott writes, “[The company] supplies hospitals with 3D printed models, has a humanitarian division that is actively working to provide prosthetics to amputees in developing countries. The loss of a limb is devastating for anyone but for the estimated 15 million amputees in the developing world without access to prosthetics or sufficient medical care, that loss can mean the end of a livelihood or even a life.”

Shortage of Surgeons. Based on the Lancet commission 2015, 5 billion people do not have access to safe, affordable surgical and anaesthesia care. Simulation, mHealth solutions and training of non-clinical professionals can reduce time and costs of training by 40%.

Touch Surgery considers itself an effective solution, challenging and affecting global surgical healthcare. Disseminating best practices and sharing them on their App designed for smartphone and tablet usage; Touch Surgery is on a mission to raise the standard of surgery and improve patients outcomes especially in the developing countries where medical innovation and best medical practices are not always available.

You don’t have to be a doctor or medical professional to help. These are just a few ways technology is changing the face of medical care in developing, and third world, countries. If you would like to help you can donate to 3D Lifeprints here as they crowdfund their project to bring hope to those with no hope. You can also donate to MIT for programs like Anna Young’s MakerNurse and MakerHealth or other technologies that are being developed for the greater good of our fellow man around the world. If you don’t have the brainpower to think up cool ideas, you could give to those who do. Then you may feel a whole lot better about walking into your clean, well equipped hospital, and getting wheeled back to your chariot-that-awaits. Technology is not only the future, it is the here and now.



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