Low-cost, versatile device for combatting neonatal hypothermia in Ethiopia’s Black Lion Hospital
Michu Box: The two insulated compartments in the base (blue) have latch doors that contain the warmed rice. Heat transfers from the rice up to the aluminum bed where the neonate lies. The removable lid (black frame with clear vinyl) retains the heat to keep the neonate warm.
Maintaining a newborn’s proper core temperature can be difficult to achieve in low-resource settings but is imperative to the newborn’s vitality. Since newborns don’t have fully developed mechanisms for regulating their body temperature, they require an outside heat source beyond what most people would perceive as normal room temperature. Team Bun in the Oven is part of Global Health Capstone, working to combat neonatal hypothermia in our partner facility of Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Hypothermia is when core body temperature falls below the normal range (36.5-37.5 °C for neonates) and affects ⅔ of neonates admitted to Black Lion’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This serious but very preventable condition increases a neonate’s chance of mortality by 80% with every 1 degree celsius drop in temperature. Our device, the Michu Box, offers a low-cost, sustainable solution for regulating neonate body temperature throughout the hospital, whether that’s in the NICU when radiant warmers are occupied or while waiting for treatment elsewhere. Our solution has four main components: a heat source, a base, a bed, and a removable lid. Unlike the current standard of care (swaddling a newborn in a blanket), our device uses both heat production and retention mechanisms. We’ve run tests to support the efficacy of our design by monitoring the temperature of a hot water pack with similar heat loss characteristics to a neonate. After two hours in the Michu Box, the “neonate’s” core temperature dropped 1.5 °C, compared to the control, which dropped 7.5 °C. These preliminary tests indicate that the Michu Box is five times as effective at preventing heat loss than the current standard of care. There is great potential for our device in combating neonatal hypothermia, and therefore infant mortality, through its implementation into the Ethiopian health care system.