A University of Florida epidemiology PhD student has received nearly half a million dollars in phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to address persistent health and development challenges.
Ms. Margo Klar, a doctoral student in the department of epidemiology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine, will use the funding to conduct feasibility testing of a ceramic umbilical cord cutting device she created for use in low-resource countries. The device does not rust, is reusable, easily sterilized and can be used safely without injury to the newborn or health care worker.
“It is my hope that the Ceramic Cord Cutting Device promotes good birthing hygiene by encouraging positive behavior change and reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with umbilical cord infection,” Ms. Klar said. “I am grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for working closely with our team to ensure that we have the resources necessary to be successful.”
In 2011, Ms. Klar was awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations phase I grant to develop a prototype of the Ceramic Cord Cutting Device, or C3D. The Grand Challenges Explorations program invests in innovative ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day.
Umbilical cord infection results from cord contamination during unsanitary delivery conditions, and the infection can often lead to sepsis and neonatal mortality. Currently, aid agencies distribute clean delivery kits to developing countries. The kits include a disposable razor blade or scalpel, but in environments where resources are scarce and supply chains are insufficient, these disposable blades are frequently reused. Ms. Klar knew her device needed to be affordable, stay sharp and be easily cleaned, even after multiple uses. During phase I of the project she developed the device’s design, demonstrating that it enhanced safety for the health care worker, mother and the newborn, and could be easily sterilized and reused.
In the second phase, Ms. Klar will introduce the device to birth attendants, including midwives, nurses and physicians, in seven countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. In a series of surveys, focus groups and in-depth interviews, she hopes to gain an understanding of current birthing practices and attendants’ willingness to use C3D in everyday practice. She also will seek feedback for improvements to the device’s design.
Ms. Klar’s UF research team includes mentor Dr. Linda B. Cottler, chair of the department of epidemiology and PHHP associate dean for research and planning, Dr. Deepthi Varma of the department of epidemiology, Dr. Judy Johnson of the College of Medicine, Dr. Jane Houston from the College of Nursing, and Dr. Peter S. McFetridge and Dr. Juan C. Nino, both from the College of Engineering. Dr. Catherine Yeckel, Ms. Klar’s master’s degree mentor at Yale University School of Public Health, supported and encouraged Ms. Klar during the submission process for her phase I funding.