Two Purdue Projects Seek to Save Moms

Posted: Updated:
Dr. Yuehwern Yih's (left) project focuses on the medical supply chain, and Dr. Craig Goergen (right) is creating a wearable device to address preeclampsia. Dr. Yuehwern Yih's (left) project focuses on the medical supply chain, and Dr. Craig Goergen (right) is creating a wearable device to address preeclampsia.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is on a mission to reduce the number of infant and maternal deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa and other developing areas, and help could come from two researchers in Indiana. The foundation awarded Grand Challenges Explorations grants to two Purdue University projects to help save the lives of mothers and babies. Of the 1,500 applications, the two Purdue professors were among 51 selected; buoyed by $100,000 each, they’re now working to make their projects come to life.

As part of its global health efforts, the Gates Foundation is funding projects that will help lower annual global neonatal deaths from 2.7 million to 1.2 million and maternal deaths from 303,00 to 97,000. While Dr. Yuehwern Yih and Dr. Craig Goergen are deploying different methods, both projects center on saving the lives of mothers and infants.

Yih’s project focuses on a harsh reality in Uganda; many young mothers die during childbirth simply because hospitals aren’t reliably stocked with basic supplies.

“For teenage girls about 15 to 19 years old, childbirth is one of the major causes of death, because they have a lot of complications,” says Yih, an industrial engineering professor. “Those complications are predictable. They need more medical supplies, and if they’re not there, a physician basically watches a mother die on the table, because they just don’t have anything they can do.”

Yih says some of the most basic medications used during childbirth are often missing at Ugandan hospitals. She notes clinicians currently track the items using index cards; her project aims to use system engineering concepts to modernize how supplies are tracked, and ultimately, readily available during delivery.

Her method uses the existing framework for prenatal care in Uganda, but adds a layer of organization: an app. Yih says a healthcare worker typically visits a pregnant mother for a standard prenatal evaluation; at that time, the worker can identify the mother’s due date and determine if she is high-risk.

“[The system] can make some predictions on the timing of her delivery and know where she’s going to deliver. Using that information, we can make a prediction of when [the hospital] is going to need those supplies. People will be entering different records from different areas, but the computer system will be cloud-based and centralize the information to formulate the plan.”

Yih will soon roll out her plan at two Ugandan hospitals and observe a third hospital without her system, so she can evaluate if it reduces maternal deaths.

While Yih’s project centers on clinics, Dr. Craig Goergen is focusing on pregnant mothers at home. His team is creating a wearable device to identify and monitor mothers who are at risk of developing preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition in which a mother develops high blood pressure in the later stages of pregnancy. Goergen’s strategy relies on the supine pressor test.

“You measure blood pressure while a patient lies on her left side…then have the patient lie on her back,” says Goergen, a biomedical engineering assistant professor. “When she lies on her back, a vein starts to become compressed, and very quickly, blood pressure starts to elevate in patients who have preeclampsia or are at risk of developing preeclampsia.”

Goergen is developing a wearable device that combines a conventional blood pressure cuff and a body-position accelerometer, which exist on smartphones. The device could take both measurements simultaneously, essentially performing the supine pressor test remotely. This would allow clinicians to identify mothers at risk for developing preeclampsia at an earlier stage.

“We can use cellular data to send measurements to a central facility and monitor blood pressure of patients throughout the countryside in these low resource settings and places where it’s hard to reach,” says Goergen. “In the case where the doctor is a two-hour drive away on dirt roads, it’s harder to visit [the clinic.]”

If their projects are successful, the Gates Foundation could award Goergen and Yih follow-on funding of $1 million each. The researchers are currently focused on proving their theories in the field—Yih in Uganda and Goergen likely in Kenya—and bringing better care to the most vulnerable mothers and their babies.

Goergen says high-tech systems can be modified for low-resource areas using cellular technology.
Yih says, in developing countries, “everything is uncertain” in medical supply chains.
  • Perspectives

    • Want to Build a Culture of Experimentation? Embrace Failure First

      Failure. It’s not something all business leaders are comfortable embracing, yet it’s integral to success. That’s because failure signals attempt - and without those undertakings, none of the world’s greatest inventions would have ever come to fruition. So when company leaders decide they want to cultivate a culture of experimentation within their company, it’s important they understand the value of embracing failure. It’s not only a great way to...

    More

Subscribe

Name:
Company Name:
Email:
Confirm Email:
HTML
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections
INPower
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • Scotty's Brewhouse Files For Bankruptcy

      Indianapolis-based Scotty's Brewhouse has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company says the decision was "driven largely by the challenges of some specific locations and was necessary because of the way the company was structured corporately." As a result of the deal, Scotty's will close four of its restaurants by the end of the year. In a news release provided to Inside INdiana Business...

    • Indy Airport to Introduce New Airline

      Indianapolis International Airport will today host an event to welcome a new airline. Airport officials say the provider will add more routes to IND's growing roster of options. Earlier this month, the airport reported record-breaking traffic in the third quarter. IND said the more than 2.4 million passengers that passed through the airport in the third quarter of 2018 marked an 8 percent year-to-date increase over last year and the best third quarter in the facility's history.

    • FFA Bid Draws 'Fierce' Competition

      Visit Indy says the National FFA Organization's decision to keep its annual convention in Indianapolis is the result of nearly a year of negotiations. The Indy-based organization Tuesday announced Indianapolis would continue to host the event through 2031. Chris Gahl, senior vice president of marketing and communications with Visit Indy, says the FFA needed to book the convention that far out for various reasons, including date availability, space requirements and the competitive...

    • Churubusco Company Acquired

      Cleveland-based Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: LECO) has announced the acquisitions of two companies, one of which is located in Whitley County. Financial terms of the deal for Churubusco-based Pro Systems LLC and Coldwater Machine Company LLC in Ohio are not being disclosed.

    • IND Adds New Airline, Nonstop Routes

      A Florida-based airline, billing itself as an "ultra low-cost carrier," is coming to Indianapolis International Airport. Spirit Airlines Inc. (NYSE: SAVE) will begin daily, nonstop service to Las Vegas and Orlando in March, and add summer seasonal nonstop service to Myrtle Beach in May. Vice President For Capacity Planning Mark Kopczak says the airline sees "real potential for growth" in those routes, adding IND has done a good job "selling Indy as a place...