Ultrasound is one of the most evolved pieces of equipment in a health-worker’s arsenal of diagnostic tools. The benefits of this innovative equipment have been instrumental in improving child mortality rates in developed Western countries. But what about developing continents like Africa where child mortality is a daily reality? How will the future of ultrasound technology adapt to save lives?

Africa’s Childbirth Crisis

In Africa pregnancy monitoring aids, such as ultrasound are not as readily available. A tragic outcome of this is that complications during childbirth still account for the highest risk of mothers dying, stillbirths and new born deaths on the continent. Over a million infant deaths are caused by entirely preventable situations with the right technology. For instance, most of these fatalities occur from inadequate oxygen supply to the child’s brain during labour, which could be avoided if health care workers could monitor the child’s wellbeing while in utero.

Innovative Ultrasound Solutions

As Dr. Maarten van Herpan, Head of Philips Africa Innovation Hub, points out:
“It is the role of the midwife to check on the foetal heart rate, so she can take necessary actions to save the child in case of an emergency”.

However, with basic heartbeat stethoscopes this is incredibly hard to accomplish. Training new doctors and purchasing ultrasound equipment is the ideal solution, but not a viable fix in developing countries and rural areas which don’t have the capital to invest in costly equipment, or the resources to train more doctors to use it. Companies now understand that they can’t simply market existing equipment to solve these problems, but must address the specific needs of the continent.

Philips Wind-up Foetal Doppler

Philip decided do just that by teaming up with Cape Town non-profit PET (PowerFree Education Technology) to develop and commercialise the Philips Wind-Up Foetal Doppler. This portable ultrasound device is a pioneering answer to the difficulties women and their babies face in labour.

We have created an infographic to give you more information on this incredible tool and how it could become the future of ultrasound: