The East Meets West Foundation (EMW) is an international development agency with the mission to transform the health, education, and communities of disadvantaged people in Asia. Through its Breath of Life (BOL) program, EMW provides a complete package of custom-made, low-cost medical equipment to neonatal care providers at no cost to address hypothermia, respiratory distress, hyperbilirubinemia, and other common causes of infant mortality in the developing world.
As EMW expanded BOL in Asia, it recognized the need to develop more effective therapy for infant jaundice. BOL included a “bili bed” to treat jaundice but it provided suboptimal phototherapy and the equipment could only be operated within an intensive care unit, which exposed jaundiced neonates to critically ill infants. As the BOL program grew, EMW also sought to expand from large, provincial referral hospitals to small district-level and community hospitals, as well as health care facilities in rural areas. These healthcare settings did not have the staffing, technical expertise, and electrical power sources needed to utilize the bili bed. EMW was interested in an infant phototherapy solution designed specifically to fit the needs and conditions of these environments. Based on its experience in the field, EMW had a detailed understanding of the design requirements for a new jaundice solution. Yet it did not have the design capabilities needed to develop the product and neither did its existing partners. This mini-case study reveals how the organization addressed this challenge while positioning itself for continued growth.
This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank John Anner, Tom Low, and John Nguyen of the East Meets West Foundation for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.