Have You Heard How Rice University is Saving Newborns?

Throughout the entire Mother’s Day month we will dedicate several posts to newborn and maternal health. We will feature programs and projects that are showing considerable progress in newborn health, are efficient and cost-cutting, and are even shaking up the newborn health and survival landscape with innovations in low-and middle-income countries. Even though it’s not May yet, we are happy to share with you what Rice University is doing in Malawi to save newborns.

Called the Day One Project, the neonatal unit at Malawi’s largest teaching hospital will be expanded thanks to a $100,000 prize from the Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation. The winners of the prestigious award, Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Maria Oden, donated their winnings to the newborn health project.

“We are accepting the prize on behalf of everyone at Rice and around the world who has collaborated to develop these innovative global health technologies,” Rebecca said. “We wanted to multiply the impact of the prize, so we decided to use the money to build a new neonatal ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Malawi. We’re calling it the Day One Project: a neonatal unit that provides excellent care to the world’s most vulnerable babies, while serving as an innovation hub for affordable, high-performance technologies that can improve care for newborns throughout the region.”


Oftentimes when you visit hospitals and clinics in poor countries you find that what was once expensive medical equipment no longer works. Or, even worse, the equipment works, but nurses, midwives, and doctors haven’t been trained to use the equipment that can save a newborn’s life. Instead perfectly good equipment sits idle in a corner, never to be turned on or used. That is why Project Day One is promising. The Project Day One team is bringing on expertise from the entire Rice University community including physicians from Texas Medical Center as well as interventions that save newborns at a fraction of the price.

One of these technologies is a bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device that helps newborns breathe, the Day One Project said in a statement. “Costing less than $200, compared to $6,000 for commercially available bCPAP devices, Rice’s bCPAP device has been shown to significantly improve newborn survival. In partnership with the Ministry of Health, the device is now being implemented in all public hospitals in Malawi.”

The $100,000 award is seed money for the Day One Project. You can also donate to continue the program and keep newborns alive in Malawi by donating at rice360.rice.edu/donationform.

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