Childbirth is one of the most sacred acts a human is capable of and can experience. However, like most things in life, we have polluted it. One of the major impact points is maternal and child health,which when not taken care of results in grave consequences for the mother and even worse,a person who has not even been born yet, dies at infancy.
The mortality rate is an effective tool to determine the state of maternal and child health. The current statistics indicate a significant improvement in the global mortality rate with the numbers falling from 380 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013. However, these numbers are only limited to the industrialized nations, conditions in Africa and southern Asia continue to deteriorate. This is mainly due to the social and economics status of women in rural areas, the geographic isolation from medical facilities and cultural norms. A Sub-Saharan African woman’s risk of dying as a result of pregnancy-related problems is 1 in 39 as compared with 1 in 4700 in developed nations.
The cities comprise a very small population of women giving birth, most births take place in rural or underdeveloped areas and the majority of these take place at home without specialized or any care at all. This lack of infrastructure and expertise results in crisis situations more often than not, thus the ludicrous mortality rates. Tackling these problems needs a hands-on,deep-rooted approach provided by human-centered Design which can bring a gradual yet drastic change to this situation. Jana Chen and team followed this approach and identified the need of an accessible low-cost incubator in rural India. Besides having high mortality rates,infants develop deformities as they have to be kept in warm conditions which are vital for a month after birth,which is impossible to do considering a conventional incubator costs $20,000 and is only available in hospitals. This new incubator is portable,low cost and extremely easy to use.
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Mass Design group has used ’empathetic architecture’ to design the Butaro hospital in Rwanda, thousands of local people built this hospital using primarily local resources. This provided employment and skills for life. Unlike a conventional hospital,it has open external hallways and huge airy spaces,with beds facing beautiful views. The colors and signage used throughout are colorful and intuitive,creating an immersive,welcoming environment for the patients. This effect is now trickling down to Malawi, wherein 85% of the women live in rural areas,being inaccessible to hospitals and any care during birth. This is now tackled with ‘waiting rooms’, where women can stay in advance of their due dates, this ensures proper care before and during their due date.These rooms will have a profound impact on reducing mortality rates in the country. Besides building these, many women are trained to become midwives and assist in childbirth, these women also educate the expecting women while they are at the waiting facility. Multi-pronged approaches will play hand and in hand to drastically improve the situation in Malawi.
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Efforts like these are enabling mothers and their children all over the world,to live and live healthily. Designers in tandem with users have the ability to change the world, one step at a time. For our progress, empathy is key.