OB-GYN Lab in a Backpack

OB-GYN Lab in a Backpack

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

In Guatemala, 58% of women who live in rural areas have never had a Pap smear. The OB/GYN pack provides trained medical personnel with the tools and equipment necessary to provide reproductive health services to women in low resource settings. The pack's portability and flexibility strengthens the ability of local community health workers and medical brigades to serve rural communities because it is designed to be used in non-traditional settings outside clinics.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Central American women, particularly those in rural areas, suffer as a whole from insufficient access to prevention, care, and treatment, as shown by the mortality rates from a largely preventable and treatable disease such as cervical cancer. Although it is easily cured when caught early, cervical cancer is the leading cause of death among women in their childbearing years in Guatemala. While cervical cancer is screened for using a Pap smear, only 67% of all Guatemalan women have received a Pap smear, and in rural areas, only 58% of women have one on record. In neighboring Nicaragua, the Ministry of Health can provide Pap smears for less than $3 USD but has only covered 10% of the population. If health care providers were given appropriate the appropriate tools to reach out to women in their community, women in these areas would have better access to reproductive health services.
About You
Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies
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Section 1: About You
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Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies

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Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies

Organization Phone

713 348 5840

Organization Address

Rice University Global Health Technologies -- MS 636 6100 Main St. Houston, TX, 77005

Organization Country

, TX

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Your idea
Country your work focuses on
What makes your idea unique?

The OB/GYN Lab-in-a-Backpack increases access to healthcare for women in rural areas with little or no access to healthcare services. The portable pack contains equipment, including stirrups, light sources, and diagnostic tests, to help trained medical professionals provide care in rural areas with little or no infrastructure.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

Approximately 500 women in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have benefited from the care provided through OB-GYN pack.


The OB-GYN Lab-in-a-Backpack is part of a suite of diagnostic backpacks originally developed by senior bioengineering design students at Rice University intended for medical brigades or community health workers to diagnose major health issues in rural locations. The OB-GYN pack features a portable stirrup attachment for use on various examination surfaces, a variety of ambient and focused light sources, and an independent power source which consists of a laptop battery that charges on solar energy or an available electric supply. Also included are general disposable examination supplies and a slide storage box for organized transfer of Pap smear samples to urban laboratories for analysis. The pack can also be customized with a number of rapid diagnostic tests specific to the location of the community such as pregnancy, HIV, or syphilis tests. In Summer 2009, partners Fundacion Futuro (Ecuador), Maria Luisa Ortiz Cooperative (Nicaragua), and Faith in Practice (Guatemala) used the pack in their outreach efforts to care for an estimated 500 women.


Based on feedback, a second generation of the OB-GYN pack was developed to be implemented this summer in Honduras, Guatemala, and Ecuador.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Year 1 - Continued partnerships with healthcare providers in developing countries will provide valuable feedback that will improve future designs of the pack. Year 2 - Working with government agencies and others in developing countries, we aim to scale up dissemination of the OB-GYN pack to serve more women. Year 3 - Partnerships with manufacturing companies to streamline the production process, ideally in country, would be pursued after the final iteration of the pack has been established.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Our success is also dependent on working with the right partners for field testing dissemination, and manufacturing. It is also critical that healthcare workers are properly trained and supported in the use of the pack.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Rice University

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Our partners are very valuable to the success of the OB-GYN backpack development and dissemination. The original idea the OB-GYN pack came from a partner organization in developing countries. Our NGO partners, who are often health care worker organizations working in developing countries, use our backpack and provide valuable feedback for improvements. Partnerships with local government allow us to implement wide-scale use of our pack and help ensure that adoption of the packs become a sustainable component of health outreach to women in rural areas, and our business partners are working to develop a commercialization and manufacturing plan.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

The three most important actions are 1) expanding partnerships with organization in the developing world to continue to receive feedback on the OB-GYN pack and ideas for new global health technology designs, 2) identify partnerships to facilitate scale up of dissemination, and 3) create and implement a sustainable model for dissemination in partnership with local businesses in developing countries.

The Story
What was the defining moment that you led to this innovation?

A senior design team in 2006 designed the first Diagnostic Lab-in-a-Backpack in response to challenges had by partner healthcare providers working with medical brigades in developing countries. This first pack, containing tools to conduct a basic laboratory work up on a patient in areas with little to no infrastructure, was well received by these medical brigades. The students who designed the pack were recognized at the 2008 Clinton Global Initiative University meeting and awarded a grant to refine and produce more of the packs. In the words of President Clinton, "The potential of this to save lives is really quite staggering." Discussions with our partners in the field led both to modifications of the original pack and generated ideas for new specialized packs. Now, the OB-GYN pack is one of a suite of backpacks, including a dental pack, eye care pack, and a community health outreach worker pack.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Our social innovators are Rice University undergraduates. Healthcare providers in the developing world provide our students with challenges associated with delivering care in resource-poor settings. In global health design courses, multi-disciplinary teams of undergraduates work with faculty and in-country mentors to develop technologies and educational programs in response to these challenges. 19,000 people in 15 countries have benefitted from 28 technologies designed by 333 students in our program.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

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