The smart bangle

Ahmed Shatil Alam reveals how COEL, a recently developed smart bangle for pregnant women, can help at curbing deaths during childbirth

Cover-Kazi

Even now in Bangladesh, around 194 women per 100,000 die during childbirth. Studies have revealed that most potential mothers die while giving births as only 30 per cent women deliver at the hands of skilled providers.

Many women in the developing countries, including Bangladesh, live in remote and rural areas where it is a real challenge to reach out to health facilities and midwives during emergency situations.

Often these expecting mothers have no knowledge about the importance of seeking medical advice from doctors during their pregnancy. As a result, pregnant women often find it difficult to get medical support to improve their chances of having a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Keeping these details in mind, Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd. has developed a smart bangle, especially designed for pregnant women that can play a role in improving maternal health.

The bangle that has been named COEL, is a maternal wellness wearable device that provides pre-recorded pregnancy related advisory messages for pregnant women. As an additional feature, it can also detect the presence and level of indoor air pollution during daily activities like cooking which is extremely harmful for our health when it crosses a certain limit.

The o.8 inches width artistic bangle, which will be available in the local market soon for Taka 1,000 to 1200, has been reviewed by the users. Anamika Chakrabarty, a user from Batiaghata upazila in Khulna who used the bangle under a pilot project by the company, is currently seven months pregnant.

She shares that she began using the bangle a month earlier. ‘It is like a trusted friend,’ says Chakrabarty. She shares that her first pregnancy was not very pleasant and it would have been better if she had the bangle at the time.

Claiming that the price of the bangle is reasonable, she urges that the company should make it available for all pregnant women in the country.

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COEL is a water resistant bangle made of high quality durable plastic. The device can run for 10 months (the entire pregnancy period) without charging.  It can also be programmed to ‘speak’ about 80 pregnancy-related wellness messages, says Abdullah Al Mamun, deputy general manager of the company.

He also says that the messages, known as MAMA messages, which COEL provides, have been jointly developed by Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) through a partnership between USAID, Johnson & Johnson, UN Foundation, the mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter. ‘Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd. (GISB) has translated MAMA messages on proper diet, vaccination, when to see a doctor, and preparations for delivery, into Bangla for this smart bangle,’ he says.

While talking to New Age Xtra, Nafis Chowdhury, senior project manager of the company, pointed out that the device does not require internet connectivity to function. It is crucial that a pregnant woman gets the right information at the right time making COEL the right device for meeting such advisory needs.

The device can be set according to the pregnancy dates and based on this, COEL will provide the pregnancy related messages (information and instruction) for 10 months at roughly two messages per week.

Besides, one of the core features of the bangle is that it can detect and alert the presence and level of indoor air pollution. ‘Specifically the bangle can detect the level of carbon monoxide in the air; an undesirable item that the pregnant women in Bangladesh is exposed during daily activities like cooking that often involves burning wood, charcoal or animal dung,’ says Chowdhury.

According to World Health Organisation, indoor air pollution, largely due to cooking and heating, contributes to around 4.3 million deaths globally every year. More than 2 billion people use burning wood, charcoal or animal dung for lighting fire to cook.

Babies can suffer low birth weight and other serious health complications from the effects of breathing indoor cooking fumes. The toxic fumes from cooking fire triggers more deaths than tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV combined and hence the benefits of the ultra-low-cost COEL wearable will be felt by people across the country as well as the world, says Chowdhury.

When an expecting woman tries to get into a kitchen or any place where the carbon monoxide level is high, the COEL’s sensor detects the pollutant thus flashing a red LED alert for the wearer. The bangle also produces an audible warning to open windows, and doors or to go outside or a place with fresh air to avoid the harmful impact of carbon monoxide gas.

Chowdhury also shared that after the pregnancy period, the women can use it in future as an ornament as it has a weight of just 38 grams.

Pavel Hoq, chief operating officer of the company who is also at the team that planned and developed the bangle since mid-2014, says that so far they have finished their pilot project at Rajshahi, Khulna and in India.

Mamun informs that the bangle will be available in the market after the pilot project is completed in a number of other divisions including Chittagong and Sylhet.