What looks like a section of a car tire could actually change the lives of millions of women in developing regions around the world. Access to effective, reversible, long-term contraceptives is often limited, making it more difficult to avoid unwanted pregnancies or arrange the timing between the births of their children. There is a low-cost solution that involves implanting a small device the size of a toothpick, which can last for three to five years. The problem is that it must be inserted below the skin of a woman’s arm, and healthcare providers in these areas have very limited training.

Biomedical engineering students at Johns Hopkins University have come up with an answer. They have developed a training device to help healthcare workers learn how to insert and remove the implants. The Contraceptive Implant Training Tool (CITT) Kit comes in two models; one has a desktop stand, and the other can be placed around a person’s arm to provide a more realistic experience. The device has layers of silicone in different densities that simulate skin, fat, and muscle layers, and makes it easy to practice inserting and removing the implants. It is important that the implant be inserted just below the skin; if it is placed in the fat layer, it will not be as effective and can be more difficult to remove. The layers are replaceable as they get worn out.

The CITT Kits can even simulate implants that are placed incorrectly, or have become attached to tissue and thus are more difficult to remove. The result is that effective clinical training can be provided in a few days. The students are now seeking support from international health organizations to help move to field-testing for their device.