Innovations in Global Health: Augmented Infant Resuscitator Empowers Birth Attendants to Save Newborns

Ian MatthewsArticle, News

A new series featuring promising product or service innovations in global health

The Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) gives intuitive, real-time feedback on key aspects of effective ventilation, including face-mask leak, patent airway, gentle inspiration, and ventilation rate.

In October of 2012, CAMTech and GBCHealth hosted an inauguration event for CAMTech in Manhattan. On the weekend following this event, CAMTech and MIT H@cking Medicine hosted a Hackathon at Massachusetts General Hospital where Dr. Data Santorino, a Pediatrician and national trainer for Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) in Uganda, requested a way to quantitatively test the skills of resuscitation trainees.

So began the start of the Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR), a low-cost technology that recently won a Transition-to-Scale Grant from Saving Lives at Birth. Competing against 550 applicants during the 2017 DevelopmentXChange, the AIR device was one of fifteen finalists to receive funding from Saving Lives at Birth and one of four finalists to receive a Transition-to-Scale Grant, bringing AIR closer to commercialization. Dr. Data, of Mbarara University in Uganda, and Dr. Kristian Olson, of CAMTech and Massachusetts General Hospital, accepted the award on behalf of the AIR Team.

Dr. Data Santorino of CAMTech Uganda presenting a demo of the Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) during the 2017 Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange in Washington, D.C. The AIR Team won a Transition-to-Scale Grant from Saving Lives at Birth in July.

An objective tool that enables birth attendants to attain ventilation sooner and maintain it longer, the AIR device is an add-on, compatible with nearly every existing bag valve mask (BVM). It monitors ventilation quality and provides real-time actionable cues to users. Giving timely, objective feedback to trainees allows them to maintain skills and build their confidence and readiness to act.

During Dr. Data’s pitch at the CAMTech and MIT H@cking Medicine hackathon in 2012, he wanted to measure whether practitioners who successfully complete newborn resuscitation training retain their skills, or at what rate they lose them. The statistics were staggering: immediately after training, 20% of birth attendants fail to ventilate newborns effectively and much of the remainder rapidly lose their skills and confidence. This training gap helps lead to 1.8 million stillbirths and newborn deaths every year from birth asphyxia.

In less than 48 hours, Craig Mielcarz, electrical engineer, Dr. Kevin Cedrone, mechanical engineer, and Dr. Kristian Olson, pediatrician and internist, joined Dr. Data on the team. They built a crude (but functional!) working prototype device to address this challenge. Five years later, the AIR Team has grown and is currently adapting its fourth prototype.

Through cyclical feedback from frontline birth attendants, the team has employed human-centered design principles to create an intuitive device that fits into existing workflows. They have completed a randomized controlled trial at both Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Both RCT sites demonstrated that time needed to achieve effective ventilation was reduced in half when using the AIR device, and the duration of effective ventilation increased by more than 50%. At birth, seconds matter for survival, and the AIR device is helping birth attendants gain those precious seconds.

With this remarkable evidence of effectiveness, the AIR Team is poised to commercialize this tool globally to help birth attendants save lives. Funding from CAMTech, MIT, Grand Challenges Canada, and the Saving Lives at Birth consortium greatly accelerated development of this device. The team will require broad partnerships to support early adoption, demand generation, and robust distribution in varied public and private networks.

Learn More About CAMTech and AIR

The Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) is a global network of academic, corporate, and implementation partners based at Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health. CAMTech’s mission is to build entrepreneurial capacity and accelerate medical technology innovation to improve health outcomes in low-resource settings.

To learn more about CAMTech’s platform and programs, or AIR specifically, please contact Dr. Kristian Olson at krolson@mgh.harvard.edu, follow us @CAMTechMGH, and visit our website.

This article is not an endorsement by GBCHealth or any members of its Board of Directors. GBCHealth does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services.

Ian MatthewsInnovations in Global Health: Augmented Infant Resuscitator Empowers Birth Attendants to Save Newborns