Project Firefly: Using mother care to help treat newborn jaundice through infant phototherapy

Project Firefly: Using mother care to help treat newborn jaundice through infant phototherapy

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

EMW creates innovative solutions to development problems. The Firefly project will provide low-cost individual phototherapy to treat infant jaundice.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Neonatal jaundice affects 60% of all newborns worldwide, and a higher percentage in Asia. Jaundice is the discoloration of the skin caused by excess bilirubin, produced by the break-down of red blood cells. Without treatment, 10% of jaundiced newborns will develop long-term disabilities, brain damage or death. Jaundice is easy to treat if detected early. Unfortunately, in rural parts of Southeast Asia, local hospitals do not have necessary equipment for treatment. EMW has been saving lives with the effective use of LED-phototherapy; however there are challenges to overcome. The cost of overhead phototherapy units is high. Babies units and more likely to transfer infectious diseases. There are also not enough nurses available to cover all the infant care needs.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Along with breast feeding, phototherapy is a cost-effective treatment for jaundice in infants. Firefly is an easy-to-use, effective, maintainable infant phototherapy device designed for babies born in low-resource community clinics in the developing world. The intense light lowers phototherapy treatment from 3 days to 1 day. Firefly provides easy access to the infant for bottle feeding, diaper changes and blood tests without removing the baby. The portable, table-top size device takes less space and can conveniently transfer from one room to another. It is easy to use, so mothers can be trained to use the device and check for simple vital signs; covering the lack of nurses to meet all the infant care needs. Priced at one tenth the cost of the most inexpensive western phototherapy device, it is possible to purchase 3 Firefly units for the cost of 1 overhead phototherapy unit.This means rural hospitals will not have to compromise between patient-volume and infection control.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The high-tech medical aesthetic make it the most trustworthy and effective phototherapy device affordable for low-resource, remote settings in Southeast Asia. Firefly is the first low-cost phototherapy device that Vietnamese clinicians trust to use in the room with mothers in rural hospitals. The quality of the newborn-mother bond that forms during the first week of life affects health and happiness for a lifetime. Firefly is designed for use in the mother’s room, supporting mother-infant bonding while reducing the strain upon hospital staff. Both feeding and phototherapy are necessary to cure neonatal jaundice. During phototherapy, light is absorbed through the skin breaking the bilirubin molecule into by-products that are passed out of the body through urine and stool. The necessary cycle of treatment is broken when feeding and phototherapy take place in distant areas of the hospital. Firefly is sufficiently compact and robust for clinicians to feel comfortable installing the device in the mother’s recovery room. By allowing an infant to be treated in their mother’s room, Firefly eliminates down-times when the infant is neither eating nor receiving treatment, optimizing treatment time and efficacy. This new context promotes regular feeding and close maternal supervision, building a strong mother-child bonding.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

D-Rev is a non-profit technology incubator with a similar mission to tackle newborn jaundice in rural clinics around the world. What differentiates Firefly from Brillance are the portable Firefly’s bassinet and the top and bottom phototherapy. Conventional overhead phototherapy devices encourage rural hospitals to place two or three infants in one bed for simultaneous treatment. Firefly’s bassinet will only hold a single infant, reducing the risk of cross-infection. Firefly is small enough for mothers to fall asleep next to the device and not have her eyes affected. The competition of D-Rev’s Brillance can pose a challenge getting Firefly into the marketplace; however an evaluation and comparison between the cost and success of the two devices can play a key role in the growth of Firefly.

Founding Story

Both phototherapy and feeding are necessary to treat infant jaundice, but transferring the infant between mom and the treatment room drastically reduces efficiency of treatment lengthening treatment time and risking injury to the infant. With the realization that mothers would be the most able to attend to the baby during treatment, EMW and DtM designed the first ever portable phototherapy that could extend lengthen the treatment and provide closer care of the infant. Due to Firefly's unique ability to be used in the room with mom, infants are able to receive more hours of phototherapy each day, while also reducing strain on hospital staff.
About You
East Meets West Foundation
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

East Meets West Foundation

Organization Country

United States, CA, Oakland, Alameda County

Country where this project is creating social impact

Vietnam, HI, Hanoi

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Cost, Quality.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

The goal of the Firefly project is to develop a new medical device that reduces infant mortality and morbidity in a low resource environment. Firefly is the first low-cost phototherapy device that Vietnamese clinicians trust to use in the room with mothers in rural hospitals--a context that supports an optimal cycle of newborn phototherapy and feeding for rapid and effective treatment. The combination top and bottom phototherapy, robust enclosed housings, table-top size, removable and cleanable single-infant bassinet, and high-tech medical aesthetic make it the most trustworthy, intuitive and effective phototherapy device affordable for low-resource, remote settings in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

EMW and Design that Matters recently completed a clinical trial in January 2012 with the hospital staff at the National OBGYN Hospital in Hanoi. We have worked with doctors and nurses to test the device and receive input on the Firefly. It has been important to work with non designers to make sure the Firefly is easy to use, intuitive, and appropriate for their local needs and environment.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

EMW and DtM hope to provide Firefly units to district hospitals in Vietnam over the next five years, as well as expand to other regions that have the need and appropriate conditions to implement the Firefly.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Cost of the Firefly, although only 1/10 of most Western phototherapy devices, is still higher than can be utilized efficiently. Design that Matters and EMW are working with local suppliers and vendors to bring that cost down even lower.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Expand to district hospitals in Vietnam

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Reach out to district hospital NICUs

Task 2

Train and brief medical professionals

Task 3

Manufacture more Fireflies for use

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Expand beyond Vietnam, regionally

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Survey other countries for appropriate hospitals and partners

Task 2

Connect with medical professionals to advocate for program

Task 3

Diistribute and train local staff for use

Tell us about your partnerships

EMW and Vietnamese manufacturer Medical Technology Transfer and Services, launched a collaboration with Design that Matters (DtM) to develop the new infant care device, Firefly. DtM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that creates new products that allow social enterprises in developing countries to offer improved services and scale more quickly. Collaborative partnerships will enable EMW to rapidly expand our services to more communities in Asia and improve access to low-cost healthcare solutions, impacting infant mortality in developing regions.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your innovation? If so, where and why?

We are targeting district-level clinics in Vietnam because of the lack of adequate staffing and reliable electrical supply to treat patients. Newborns with complications are referred to larger hospitals because of the lack of resources. This results in overcrowding and higher mortality rates. Firefly is a less expensive incubator that works in local hospitals. This design utilizes local supply of parts and the local knowledge of automobile repair. Firefly is a simpler tool that will improve local clinics’ ability to effectively treat patients and reduce the number of referrals.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

East Meets West values partnerships with clinicians and medical professionals in local hospitals in Vietnam. Our experienced field staff work closely with doctors and nurses to provide appropriate training and gather feedback from these practitioners. The development of the Firefly itself was the result of extensive testing and evaluation of the device with close involvement of the medical staff at the National OBGYN Hospital in Hanoi. It is the close collaboration with local medical staff that make the Firefly an innovation that is successful and sustainable.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

EMW is looking for opportunities for funding and marketing to share the work of the Firefly project. We are constantly exploring partnership opportunities.