Lifebox and COVID-19



Lifebox works to improve the safety of surgery and anesthesia in low and middle-income countries. Our partner healthcare workers are now on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

Lifebox has rapidly re-focused our tools and training materials to help support our global network during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Update December 16, 2020

Lifebox focuses on the safety of surgical and anesthesia providers and their patients. Our priority since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to adapt and develop tools and strategies to support our colleagues as they provide safe surgical, anesthesia, and COVID-19 care during this global health emergency.

“Lifebox responded rapidly to COVID-19. In the absence of good testing, being able to have a pulse oximeter on the finger of a person with a cough and detect those with low oxygen levels has proven to be incredibly important across the world, especially in places like Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America where Lifebox operates. With 6,500 pulse oximeters distributed thus far, work continues apace – with Lifebox doing incredible things at scale.”

 Lifebox Chair, Dr. Atul Gawande 

COVID-19 Preparedness: Published in the Annals of Surgery,  “COVID-19 preparedness within the surgical, obstetric and anesthetic ecosystem in Sub Saharan Africa” was developed with Lifebox partners across West, East, and Southern Africa to help guide surgical systems preparing for COVID-19. 

Lifebox oximeter being used for COVID response at the National Hospital of Chimaltenango, Guatemala

Pulse Oximetry: The Lifebox pulse oximeter is at the heart of our COVID response. Pulse oximeters are a crucial tool in safe anesthesia and the management of COVID-19 patients. “Silent hypoxia” is a defining feature of the disease, with patients slowly starving of oxygen without the usual shortness of breath that would see them seek care. By the time many COVID-19 patients are having trouble breathing – they are already critically ill. The best tool to detect these patients is a pulse oximeter.  In 2020, Lifebox distributed more than 6,500 oximeters to frontline providers across 43 countries worldwide. 

Developed with ALIMA, the Pulse Oximeter COVID-19 Decision Making Tool helps to rapidly identify patients in need of oxygen therapy and aid decision-making regarding their care. The tool  is available in six languages with a multi language training video which has more than 170,000 views across the languages.

COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist: The COVID-19 Checklist, developed by Lifebox in collaboration with partners including WFSA and Smile Train, provides prompts for key infection prevention strategies to reduce the risk of infection to surgical teams operating during the pandemic. It was developed by surgeons and anesthesiologists with input from surgical teams across seven different African nations. Lifebox has developed an online Train-the-Trainer workshop on the COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist – training more than 50 surgical team members as trainers across Central America, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Surgical teams around the world have continued to provide lifesaving surgery during the pandemic – even when lacking basic PPE to keep themselves safe. Lifebox has distributed 25,000 items of PPE to Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, and Uganda and supported the local purchase of PPE in Honduras and Ethiopia. 

Safely preserving and reusing PPE extends the life of materials in short supply. We developed a video on PPE best practice on the Donning, Doffing and Reprocessing of PPE’ in resource-constrained settings and provided guidance on evidence-based practice.

Innovations: Lifebox is supporting innovations to improve patient safety during the pandemic. This has included working with the Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Team – a team of volunteers repairing essential hospital equipment – and the N95DECON consortium on a project piloting the use of UVC to decontaminate N95 masks. 

Webinars: Underpinning this work has been Lifebox’s webinar series with clinical leaders in surgery, obstetrics, and anesthesia providing perspectives and guidance from frontline practice. Topics have included COVID-19 preparedness, oximetry and oxygen therapy, obstetric anesthesia, and safe C-sections during COVID-19 – reaching more than 7,000 healthcare providers

This pandemic is not over. Please donate to Lifebox to support our critical work. Thank you.

We would like to express our gratitude and solidarity to all of our partners working on the frontlines of this pandemic.

Thank you to Lifebox supporters, ELMA Philanthropies, IZUMI Foundation, Smile Train, and UBS Optimus Foundation for supporting our COVID-19 response in 2020.  

Kris Torgeson, Global CEO, on behalf of the entire Lifebox team

Dr. Atul Gawande, Chair, on behalf of the entire Lifebox Global Governance Council

For Lifebox updates throughout the pandemic see here.

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