Maternal Health Challenge: And the winner is…

A few months back, ABC News, the Duke Global Health Institute and the Lemelson Foundation launched a challenge for university students. Called the “Be the Change: Save a Life Maternal Health Challenge,” it was designed to encourage students to think about the issue of maternal health and provide creative and implementable strategies to help women and children around the world.



Contestants were asked to address a key issue related to high maternal mortality rates and to submit a short video on their ideas. The winners receive $10,000 and the opportunity to present in front of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.

The winners were announced last week: three graduate students from Johns Hopkins School of Engineering: Sean Monable, Maxim Budyansky, and Matthew Means. Their submission was a pen-like device that screens preganant women and children for conditions like gestational diabetes and anemia. The device would be ideal for use in the developing world, given its simplicity and the fact that it costs less than half a cent per test.

The device works like this: a health care worker uses the pen to mark a strip of paper, which he/she gives to a pregnant woman. The pregnant woman urinates on the strip — very similar to taking a home pregnancy test — and the strip changes color to indicate a positive result. There are different pens for different conditions, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and anemia. According to ABC, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia account for 76,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 infant deaths per year. Current means of detection are far too expensive to be widely utilized in the developing world.

Congratulations to the winning team, and to everyone who submitted videos suggesting ways to improve conditions for women and children around the world!

It’s inspiring to see university students dedicating themselves to such an important cause and coming up with innovative solutions. Check this out to read a little bit more about the winners and their device. In the meantime, I’ll be looking around online for some of the videos made by contestants to share with you here at Saving Mothers.

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