The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has announced a $14 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of research focused on improving childbirth safety in the world's poorest countries.
The funding will support two studies by interdisciplinary teams from the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health aimed at determining the role of technology in predicting and addressing key risk factors associated with pregnancy, labor, and delivery. The Limiting Adverse Birth Outcomes in Resource-Limited Settings (LABOR) study will outfit fifteen thousand women at high-volume clinical sites in developing countries with wearable physiologic sensors to monitor the onset of labor through delivery, with the goal of developing algorithms that can predict adverse risk and plan for specific interventions. The Fetal Age Machine Learning Initiative (FAMLI) study aims to develop an affordable and simplified ultrasound device that has the capacity to assess critical obstetric information, including gestational age. Collaborators in the LABOR study include Brown University, Northwestern University, and the UNC schools of medicine and global public health, while collaborators in the FAMLI study include the North Carolina State University College of Engineering and the UNC OBGYN and psychiatry departments. When complete, data from the studies will be made publicly available through the foundation's Knowledge Integration team.
"In many parts of the world, the days surrounding childbirth are the riskiest period a mother and her newborn will ever face," said Jeffrey Stringer, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UNC School of Medicine and adjunct professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. "These studies will develop resource-appropriate technologies to make that time much safer."
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