UNICEF’s Wearables for Good challenge found a finalist, WAAA!, that can help reduce infant mortality rates at very affordable prices. WAAA! and other finalists now move to the next phase where their goals will be to convert the concepts into prototypes, working with industry mentors to provide supporting materials and advice.

WAAA! stands for “wearable, anytime, anywhere, APGAR” and is designed to save the lives of newborns by assessing vital signs from the minute the baby is born. APGAR is a standard measure of a newborn’s health, and stands for “appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration.” University of Huddersfield researchers have focused their efforts to develop a wearable to monitor two key elements: pulse and respiration rate. These are not easily assessed by parents simply by observation. To keep the costs down, the design and features have been kept simple. The device is a sensor module that slots into a silicone band. It is worn around the newborn’s chest over a course of three days around the time of birth. The wearable monitors ECG signals, heart rate, and the strain to the bottom of the housing due chest expansion caused by respiratory efforts. If abnormalities are detected, the signs are transmitted wirelessly to a companion gateway box that can send text message alerts to local caregivers or local healthcare provider.

There are so many emerging countries where women do not get proper neo-natal treatments and infant deathrates are high. If and when WAAA! is available, it could save many newborn lives because of timely monitoring and reporting of abnormalities in key vitals.