For the last three weeks, we have been conducting research in three low resource hospitals in Uganda. Once all of our documents were approved by the research and ethics committee of the hospitals (dealing with policy in Uganda is quite a hassle), we were able to start collecting data. We started doing observations by shadowing during doctor rounds in each hospital. We organised ‘focus group discussions’ in the neonatal wards and the special care unit with mothers that just gave birth preterm, to understand what the barriers are of practicing Kangaroo Mother Care continuously for 8 hours a day. Although it was quite a challenge connecting with the mothers (not having any personal experience with pregnancy and anything of that sort), they gave us great insights on the issues they encountered during their stay at the hospital.
We proceeded our research by doing Interviews with nurses and doctors. They gave us a better understanding of what is happening behind the scenes of the neonatal wards. They were incredibly passionate about their work and were excited to help us, as opposed to one of the administrative workers that tried to bribe us.
To conclude the research phase of our project, we conducted separate interviews in the homes of mothers that practiced KMC after being discharged. Those home visits helped us not only to hear how mothers are experiencing KMC at home, but also to observe their home context and have a chat with family members
After three weeks, we identified all the barriers and difficulties of Kangaroo Mother Care clustered into 6 categories; Informational, Infrastructural, Physical, Financial, Psychosocial and Policy related barriers. Together with Design Without Borders, we debriefed our research and organised a big ideation session to come up with tons of ideas for each of the barriers. With a room full of post-its and more than 100 ideas, we started clustering them and ended up with 4 design directions.
1. Affordable and space efficient furniture to increase ergonomics, privacy and hygiene in hospitals
2. Wearable that secures the baby to enable mothers to conduct other activities while doing KMC
3. An educational tool in hospitals that stimulates mothers to interact with each other and provide adequate feedback on KMC
4. System that enable mothers to monitor babies from home and communicate the progress to hospitals
The following weeks, we will conceptualise our ideas for each design direction with prototypes. After that we will be validating them in the hospitals and home settings where our research was conducted.
For the documentary we are making about industrial design in low resource economies, we talked to a lot of local African designers and industry shapers. We noticed that products being used in Uganda are rarely designed and produced locally. They find their way here through a viable business plan or through donations of aid organisations. However, these products are not designed for the context they are put into. Most designed products discriminate based on geography, culture and economic status. In the hospitals we saw that donated products can have a positive impact, but that there is also a big downside to them. They are not suited for these hospitals because factors like lack of reliable electricity, maintenance of the machines, different voltages on the grid, illiteracy and lack of space are not taken into account. Therefore, a lot of products are not being used properly or simply end up in the hospital machinery graveyards. In the coming period we will further look at how design can be a solution to this problem, when it is applied locally and the context is taken into account.