Kanga Kare started as a team of five interdisciplinary UC Berkeley students. Our team united around the goal to stop premature infant mortality in rural areas by providing low cost incubators to developing communities.
My role on this team was to design the incubator using the feedback we gathered from medical experts, material specialists, and manufacturers. After finalizing the design, I worked with manufacturers to get the incubator produced at a low cost.
Four million infants die every year from preventable causes and 140 infants die every hour from hypothermic causes alone. We connected with Dr. Pi from the Ngao Hospital in rural Thailand where premature infant mortality is a large problem. Right now, Ngao Hospital, along with others, microwave a bag of green beans and use the bag to keep infants warm. This bag is much too hot initially, burning the baby, and loses its heat too quickly, eventually becoming ineffective.
Photo of the bean bag that rural hospitals microwave to keep infants warm.
After speaking with a number of medical professionals, we determined that using a technique called Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is the most beneficial and effective way to nurture an infant.
Kangaroo Mother Care is a symbiotic, skin-to-skin nurturing technique in which a mother will hold her baby on her chest to provide warmth. While this technique is quite natural, it has been backed by leading health organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Cochrane Collaboration.
Depiction of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC)
In the rural healthcare system, ambulances are used to transport premature infants from rural hospitals to more established tertiary care centers. We designed our product for this timeframe of infant care.
Typical ambulance used to transport mothers and infants to more established hospitals.
Understanding Customer and User Needs
For Kanga Kare, hospitals, both resourced and rural, were our target market. These hospitals need to regulate infant temperature, monitor vitals, and have access to a low cost solution.
Our product’s users are the mothers and these mothers need a way to maintain the bond with their child and so we used Kangaroo Mother Care to address this.
Our Solution – The IncuPack
The IncuPack addressed the critical needs of the hospitals while still keeping the mother close to their child. It integrated hospital monitoring equipment into the garment and rerouted all the chords and tubes away from the mother and child, providing a natural experience for the mother and child in an unnatural situation.
High fidelity prototype of the IncuPack. It is made with antimicrobial fabrics that insulate body heat well.
The IncuPack setup.
An early prototype iteration of the IncuPack.
Going to Thailand
We were able to travel to Thailand in January 2014 to show our product to the rural Ngao Hospital. There we were able to walk the doctors and nurses through the use and we were able to receive integral design feedback, which we implemented in future iterations.
Walking the doctors and nurses through the IncuPack’s use and storyboard.
The IncuPack in the ambulance environment.
While KMC has been validated by health organizations, we needed to validate our product’s efficacy to make sure it was effective in incubating infants. To do this, we partnered with the Public Health Department at UC Berkeley and established a testing framework to validate efficacy.
By May 2014, we had set up partnerships with manufacturers to produce the IncuPack at low production scales for controlled implementation. We became fellows at the Resolution Project and through their seed funding, we set up manufacturing partnerships to develop a small number for use in testing.
The Kanga Kare team becoming Fellows at the Resolution Project in April, 2014.