Road traffic accidents.
Congenital heart defects.
This is the permafrost of public health, killing tens of millions of people worldwide each year.
But there’s a singular piece of medical equipment increasingly recognised as critical in the resistance. It enhances treatments and reduces deaths from each of these conditions, and it’s called a pulse oximeter.
At Lifebox we know, to the power of 12,000 and counting, what a lifesaving difference this device can make.
So earlier this month, we were delighted to once again join a range of experts for a panel hosted by Leith Greenslade and the Pneumonia Innovations Team. The goal: to show just how wide-ranging the application of oximetry can be, and to call for investment in the technology on a global scale.
Researchers Beth Payne and Matt Weins at the University of British Columbia presented work showing the value of pulse oximetry in managing both pre-eclampsia, a major cause of maternal mortality worldwide, and in planning for safe hospital discharge for children.
Robert Koppel from Northwell Health, shared a life’s work on the life-saving impact of pulse oximetry screening for congenital heart defects.
And we shared our experiences with pulse oximetry making anesthesia and surgery safer.
An oximeter is a non-invasive machine that reads and reports the level of oxygen circulating in your blood stream. A small sensor, clipped onto the finger or the ear, detects the slightest change in colour saturation, while an algorithm converts it to a percentage. The oximeter beeps with your heart, and the tone changes in harmony with any change in your saturation.
A pulse oximeter, in short, tells you how well a body is breathing.
Clearly the technology has come a long way since its first application as an early warning sign of fighter pilots about to pass out at high altitude.
Out of the sky and into the hospital – first in operating rooms in the 1980s, then whole departments, and gradually – though not nearly fast enough – across continents, oceans and out to healthcare workers in the most rural settings.
What a privilege to join such a passionate group of individuals and organizations, so intelligently leveraging this small piece of technology against problems that cost millions of lives – and into programs that could save them.