This Affordable ‘Embrace Warmer’ Saves Thousands of Baby Lives

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The Embrace Warmer is a cheap alternative to infant incubators that can save hundreds of thousands of premature babies a year.

Each year 15 million babies are born prematurely. Of these, roughly a million will parish, often within the first 24 hours. Other numbers present an even more dire situation, with 20 million born with low birth weight, and 4 million of those dying. Premature babies are typically underweight and cannot sustain their body’s temperature. In an interview with Slate Jane Chen, one of the creators of Embrace and a former Stanford MBA student, said, “These babies are so tiny they don’t have enough fat to regulate their own body temperature… In fact, room temperature feels like freezing cold water to them.”

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The Embrace Warmer, by Embrace, is a revolutionary non-electric sleeping bag that uses heated wax to stabilize an infant’s body temperature. The wax can be heated in under a half hour, then inserted into the Embrace Warmer. The bag can then stay at a constant 98 degrees for over four hours, allowing excess heat to escape through phase-changing material.

The bag comes in two different models; one for the developing world that can be heated by hot water, and another for rural communities that can use electricity. On average, the necessary incubators for premature babies cost $20,000. The Embrace Warmer is priced at roughly 1 percent of that. Currently each bag cost approximately $200.

In 2010, the team, featuring Chen and her Stanford classmates Rahul Panicker, Linus Liang, Naganand Murty, and Razmig Hovaghimian, set their sights on reaching 100,000 infants by 2013. Today they have surpassed that number, reporting that 144,000 babies have been impacted by the Embrace Warmer. Embrace also says to have trained 4,400 healthcare workers, and started 105 programs in 11 countries, including Uganda and India, two of the nations suffering most from neonatal hypothermia.

Embrace, the members of which originally designed the bag for a class called Design and Extreme Affordability at Stanford, has since partnered with several NGOs and governments to provide training and education to new mothers and clinics, saying they have “designed a comprehensive program model to leverage the Embrace Warmer as a catalyst for broader impact maternal and child health outcomes in developing countries.”

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For their desire to help those in need, for their recognition of a major global issue, and for taking the initiate in inciting and making change, we are proud to name Embrace and the Embrace Warmer our Luminaires of the Week.

For more information about the Warmer or Embrace, take a look at their website or watch Chen’s TED Talk above.



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About the author: Gary Joshua Garrison


Gary Joshua Garrison is the Prose Editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. His fiction has appeared in various locations around the World Wide Web, as well as in bound reams of paper. His nonfictional musing can be found at Luminary Daily and Way Too Indie. He writes, teaches, and goes to the movies in the desert of Arizona with his well-postured cat, Widget.



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