Better monitoring of maternal health will save lives

Obstetric haemorrhage, pre-eclampsia and sepsis account for more than 50 percent of maternal deaths worldwide. Early detection and effective management of these conditions relies on vital signs monitoring, including pulse and blood pressure.

A Newton-Bhabha funded collaboration between researchers in India and the UK has introduced a new vital sign device into routine maternity care at community and hospital level in 10 sites in India, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Haiti. The CRADLE Vital Signs Alert (VSA) is a hand-held semi-automated device which measures blood pressure and pulse, detecting hypertension and circulatory shock with an early warning system. It is affordable, easy-to-use, and portable with low power requirements.

More than 3300 devices have been delivered to hospitals and clinics, and successfully incorporated into routine care, sometimes as the first blood pressure device available in the clinic. More than 1500 healthcare workers have been trained to use the device. Results show that the VSA traffic light system strongly predicts the risks of complications and its introduction into maternity care will help save lives.

In 2017 the project was awarded the Newton Prize, enabling researchers to introduce the device in Ugandan refugee settlements where its ability to improve disease detection in non-pregnant as well as pregnant adults will be evaluated.

The project was delivered through the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the UK and the Department for Biotechnology in India.

Project title: Evaluation of the introduction of a novel device in the management of hypertension and shock in pregnancy in low-resource settings

Project leads: Professor Andrew Shennan, Kings College London’s Women’s Health Academic Centre at St Thomas’ Hospital in London and Professor Shivaprasad Goudar, Women’s and Children’s Health Research Unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Belgaum

Delivery partners:  Medical Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, and India’s Department for Biotechnology

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