NEST360° is announcing $68 million in funding commitments from a consortium, including some of the world’s largest private foundations, for the first phase of an eight-year initiative to enable African hospitals to improve newborn survival by 50 percent and to establish a pipeline of local innovators, technicians and medical staff.
The Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST360°) initiative is an international group led primarily by female engineers, physicians, health experts and entrepreneurs from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Malawi. Its bold goal is to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of newborn babies each year by providing the tools and training needed to support comprehensive neonatal care throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The first phase of the program will focus on Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria.
“What we know is that introducing a bundle of new technologies at one time is more economical than doing so one technology at a time," said NEST360° co-founder Kara Palamountain of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "This is a tremendous opportunity to scale a bundle of lifesaving newborn health technologies. Most African hospitals cannot afford the medical devices found in U.S. and European hospitals, but innovators are showing it is possible to design technology for African hospitals that provides the same standard of care at a fraction of the cost. These innovations are making a difference, but they don't yet add up to a NICU for African hospitals. Only through bundled distribution and maintenance can NEST360° be scalable and sustainable."
NEST360° will develop and deliver a package of affordable medical devices that address neonatal health problems responsible for the majority of newborn deaths in Africa, such as hypothermia, respiratory problems, infection and jaundice. Such technologies are common in countries with the lowest newborn death rates -- about three per 1,000 births -- but they are largely missing in sub-Saharan Africa, where the rate is nine times higher with 28 of every 1,000 babies dying in the first month of life on average.
The program is based on data that indicates bundling technologies and services is the key to better care for keeping babies alive in hospitals and to making certain that hospitals can afford to keep babies alive. NEST360° aims to make a lasting impact by working closely with governments, local universities and professional organizations to provide the tools and training for thousands of biomedical technicians, inventors, engineers, nurses and doctors across Africa.
By developing rugged, affordable technologies combined with new sustainable financing, distribution, training and infrastructure systems, NEST360° expects to contribute to the reduction of newborn death rates in sub-Saharan Africa by more than half -- to fewer than 12 per 1,000 by 2030.
NEST360° was founded mostly by women who, like Palamountain, share an unshakeable belief that all of the pieces of the solution -- technological, political, educational, economic and sociological -- are necessary and must be implemented together to sustainably prevent newborn deaths in Africa.
“Today, most women in Africa deliver their babies in health facilities, but clinicians working in those facilities do not have the technology they need to care for small and sick babies," said NEST360° co-founder Rebecca Richards-Kortum of Rice University. "The NEST team will work together to identify high-quality, affordable technologies to fill this gap. Where needed, NEST engineers in the U.S. and Africa will work together to develop new technologies to save newborn lives. And we will partner with educational institutions and the private sector to scale up what works best. History shows that saving newborns is perhaps the most powerful key to initiating economic development in poor nations.”