Low Tech Solutions with High Impact


Regular listeners of Everyday Bioethics know we often highlight high tech solutions to human disease and suffering. Although they amaze us, they often come with a high price tag. Sometimes the greatest impact on human life can come from a less costly “low tech” solution. Today, I would like to tell you about a few “simple solutions” that can make a big difference in improving health and saving lives around the world.   

Every minute, a women dies somewhere from pregnancy or childbirth.  Ten million women and their newborn infants are at risk of injury, infection, or disease, just because they do not have a safe and clean place to give birth.  For $25, something called the Safe Motherhood Kit provides essential training and sterile birthing supplies such as gloves, along with a hat, tunic, and blanket for the new baby.[1]   This kit helps a mother and her newborn off to a healthy start.

One of the primary causes of maternal death and complications is post partum hemorrhage. The best solution is to have a trained birth attendant who can administer injections and massage the uterus. But, even without a birth attendant, the mother’s health might be protected. Uniject is a pre-measured syringe of two helpful drugs that can be taken to prevent hemorrhage, or to treat a woman who is hemorrhaging. One syringe costs less than $5.[2]

Many maternal and infant deaths could be prevented if the pregnant mom merely had good prenatal care. She may have anemia, high blood pressure, HIV, or malaria that complicate both the pregnancy and birth. If these are treated, not only do pregnancy and childbirth go better, but the newborn’s chance of surviving and thriving improves.

It’s not enough to survive delivery and the neonatal period. There has been a lot of controversy about the value of vitamins in the US. But micronutrients such as iodine, iron and vitamin A are especially valuable during pregnancy and childhood. An iodine deficiency can reduce a child’s IQ by 15 points, or cause deafness.[3]  Iodine supplements cost less than five cents per year. Breastfeeding is the primary source of vitamin A for infants, so giving the mom a vitamin A supplement could save her baby’s life.

As Christians, we are concerned about the life and health of moms and their children in developing countries. But we also want to be wise stewards, looking for ways our dollar will have the most impact. Think about giving a Safe Motherhood Kit or vitamin packets. They may not have the appeal of a high-tech solution, but these low-tech, low-cost, high-impact solutions really do save lives. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the resources at the end of the transcript of my commentary.

Or, you can try a high-tech solution. Google “Safe Motherhood Kit,” or “donating prenatal vitamins.” You can give online, today. A few clicks just might save a few lives.


[1] IMA World Health, “The Safe Motherhood Kit,” http://www.imaworldhealth.org/medicines-supplies-and-care/safe-motherhood-kits.html (accessed January 22, 2012).

[2] USAID and Prevention of Postpartum Hemorrhage Initiative, “Fact sheets: Utertonic drugs for the prevention and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage.” Seattle: PATH, 2008. Vivien D Tsu, Carol Levin, Mai P T Tran, Minh V Hoang, Huoung TT Luu. “Cost-effectiveness analysis of active management of third-stage labour in Vietnam.” Health Policy and Planning. 24 (6): 438-44. http://heapol.oxfordjournals.org/content/24/6/438.abstract (accessed January 27, 2012).

[3] UNICEF, “Micronutrients – Iodine, Iron and Vitamin A,” December 14, 2011, http://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_iodine.html (accessed January 22, 2012).


Additional Resources:

“The Safe Motherhood Kit.” http://www.imaworldhealth.org/medicines-supplies-and-care/safe-motherhood-kits.html

Vitamins and micronutrients. http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/learn/ways-we-help-nutrition

Information about Uniject oxytocin syringes. http://www.path.org/media/tech-to-save-mothers.php The Uniject was originally developed by PATH to deliver vaccines. Please note that PATH advocates abortion and emergency contraception.

General information about safe motherhood. http://www.whiteribbonalliance.org/

The World Youth Alliance is introducing FEMM (Fertility Education + Medical Management), a knowledge-based reproductive health program. For more information, contact World Youth Alliance at way@wya.net. http://www.wya.net/


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