We take it for granted, until it’s lost. Until we are gasping for air and clinging to life even as it slips away from between our fingers.
Nitesh Kumar Jangir, a Bangalore-based engineer, created the first neonatal CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, which he called ‘Saans’. The device is revolutionary in more ways than one.
A Machine for a Mission: Saving Babies Around the World
Not only is it the first device of its kind, but Saans was also built to be powered in a variety of ways. Everything from a rechargeable battery and a vehicle’s electrical supply to compressed gas and manual air pumping can be used to operate Jangir’s out-of-the-box device.
This affordable and innovative neonatal breathing technology has saved hundreds of newborn babies across rural and small-town India. For being the inventor of this life-saving device, Jangir won the 2019 London Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Award.
Saans was initially conceptualized as a breathing support device that would help prevent avoidable deaths among premature babies suffering from various kinds of respiratory issues and problems. Many premature babies are born weak and with underdeveloped organs. This causes them to develop respiratory distress syndrome after birth.
Fighting Poverty and Illness with Science
A lack of access to sophisticated medical equipment in rural and semi-urban India had ensured that most of these infants died soon after birth, as their parents couldn’t afford the kind of treatment and medical intervention that would be needed to keep them alive. This was the lethal problem that Jangir had set out to unravel and solve with his revolutionary invention.
For his efforts to improve the lives of children in India and around the world through science, Jangir received the Sustainable Development Award in the People category, along with fourteen fellow awardees hailing from the 53 Commonwealth countries. The award has helped Jangir’s work get the recognition and support that he will need to save many more lives in the future.
“Our mission is to try and ensure that babies don’t lose their lives due to the lack of access to a piece of technology,” Jangir said after receiving the award.
The award was presented to him and his fellow awardees by Prince Harry, the Youth Ambassador of the Commonwealth. Baroness Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, was also present at the award ceremony held last week in London.
Jangir explained that his neonatal breathing support equipment was ideal for developing nations such as India, where the supply of electricity is often erratic and resources can be quite scarce in public hospitals.
Moreover, the availability of trained and qualified doctors can often be lacking due to a shortage of manpower in municipal hospitals. For this reason, he developed Saans in such a way that it does not require any complex training and can thus be used by trainee doctors, nurses, and other staff members who might not be fully qualified physicians.
Talking about his brain-child, Jangir claimed: “Anyone, anywhere can use this device and deliver crucial support to premature babies.”
According to Jangir, the Commonwealth award will help him upscale his invention across the fifty-three member countries of the organization. Saans will then become available for use in countries that have similarly dire conditions, such as those in Africa.
It is much less expensive – almost three times cheaper – than any other machine that performs a similar function, but without compromising on quality. Jangir believes many more lives can be saved in the upcoming years with the world’s first neonatal CPAP device.
Introduction to the Innovator
So, who exactly is Nitesh Kumar Jangir, the messiah fighting for the lives of India’s underprivileged infants?
Jangir is an electronics engineer living in Bangalore. He co-founded Coeo Labs with his friend Nachiket Deval. Their goal was to identify the most critical problems facing the healthcare industry and to create indigenous solutions through innovation in order to fulfill unmet local needs.
Theirs is an innovation-driven business model that relies heavily on new scientific breakthroughs to minimize the number of deaths in the critical care and emergency domains of medicine.
Changing the World, One Baby at a Time
For the past three months, Saans has been doing the rounds of district hospitals in various parts of India, where the lack of neonatal ICU facilities has for a long time been the leading cause of death among infants. The device, according to Jangir, was developed over a period of more than four years.
The Head of Innovation at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Abhik Sen, said that by showcasing and highlighting the innovations these trailblazers are making for the creation of a better world, the awards will help shine a light on the work of these unsung heroes living among us.
This will help them get even more financial support and social backing, which they will need to continue the amazing work they have been doing. They will also be able to attract the attention of investors and mentors, who can help them scale their business and save many more lives!
Inspiring Future Generations
These awards can also play a role in inspiring the many young men and women living in the Commonwealth countries, enabling them to do similarly pioneering work in their chosen domains. It will give them an impetus to dream big and accomplish great things, with the belief that no problem is so big that it can’t be solved through innovation and hard work.
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