Kicking off the BEMPU Research Award in Belgaum, Karnataka

One of the most significant aspects of my project this year at BEMPU Health has been working on a research award to coordinate the launching of clinical studies across India. These evaluations all focus on our Hypothermia Alert Device (the BEMPU Bracelet), a device that provides continuous temperature monitoring for preterm/low birth weight babies who are at high risk for hypothermia, and that prompts parents to take corrective action when necessary. With the goal of generating more evidence around the implementation of the bracelet in different contexts and with various populations, I worked with our clinical advisor to design an application, vet study sites, and review research proposals. We eventually settled on six sites at which to launch studies with the bracelet.

Over the last few months and into the summer, studies examining new uses and measuring different outcomes for the bracelet will launch in Delhi, Gujarat, Goa, Hyderabad, and northern Karnataka. The process of choosing these study sites re-emphasized to me just how diverse India really is. I have seen how crucial it is that because of the range of cultures, languages, and geographies nationally, health interventions must have evidence supporting their acceptability and feasibility in different regions. This is something we were sensitive to in launching this project, as we also hope to further our understanding of how the bracelet can be successfully implemented and impact neonatal health with a wide range of populations.

The first study to start was in Belgaum, Karnataka, a city about 8 hours northwest of Bangalore, at KLES Hospital and Medical Research College. After an early morning trip to reach Belgaum with my coworker Murthy, we arrived at the hospital to meet Dr. Manisha, the study Principal Investigator, and her team. Seeing a wide range of clinical settings has been an interesting aspect of my position, and this visit was no exception. KLES has a private portion of the hospital as well as a charitable, subsidized area for lower-income patients. Dr. Manisha showed us around the labor ward, where the study will be conducted. Her study focuses on whether Bempu can help newborns with temperature adaptation during their first six hours of life. We had the chance to train some of the physicians and nurses on how to use the bracelet; through discussions with these providers, we were also able to better understand some of the neonatal health issues seen in Belgaum and get a sense of the patient population that will be involved in the study.

Dr. Manisha and I in the KLES Hospital NICU

The BEMPU Bracelet is part of an intervention to promote comprehensive newborn care. When providing training, we have the chance not only to show staff how to use the device, and how to explain it to parents, but also to promote and review corrective strategies for hypothermia, particularly Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), an evidence-based technique for providing thermal care to newborns that helps with weight gain, immunity, and bonding. This was a great opportunity to understand how implementing the BEMPU bracelet actually works on the ground, facilitate training with healthcare staff, and to introduce the device in a new location. We even had the privilege of giving a BEMPU bracelet to a newborn!

A new BEMPU baby in Belgaum

All around, my visit to Belgaum was a great start for the BEMPU Research Award, and I’m excited to see the progress of this study as well as the others.

Abby graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May 2016 with a double major in Biology and Gender and Women’s Studies and a Certificate in Global Health. As a student, she worked as a research assistant on projects examining gendered causes of health disparities, volunteered as a health coach at a community health center, and worked with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to develop a policy to address physician shortages in rural areas of the state. She has spent the last year as a Maternal Child Health Coordinator with the National Health Corps Pittsburgh, an AmeriCorps program, working with high-risk women and families to provide health education and case management services. In summer 2016, she completed a research internship with the Public Health Foundation of India in Gurgaon, where she worked on a project studying treatment for anemia in pregnancy. She is excited to be returning to India to work on a public health project with Bempu!

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