An accidental discovery by an Argentinian car mechanic could make child-birthing easier for women worldwide. The BBC reports on Jorge Odon, who realized that a suction trick for getting corks out of bottles could be applied to childbirth. In effect, the device he developed pumps air into plastic bags put around the babies head, allowing the doctor or midwife to gently remove the baby through the birth canal. More:
By 2008, the project had come to the attention of the World Health Organization. On a visit to Buenos Aires, its chief co-ordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health, Dr Mario Merialdi, asked for a demonstration…“I was intrigued, but also sceptical because for many years, almost centuries, there has been no innovation in this area of work,” Merialdi says […][ Dr Javier Schvartzman at the Centre for Medical Education and Clinical Research in Buenos Aires] says the most important thing is that the Odon device is easy to use – it could potentially be used by a midwife without a doctor present. It also reduces the risk of transmission from mother to baby of infections such as HIV. And, in developed countries, it could help bring down soaring rates of Caesarean births.
It’s somewhat shocking that “almost centuries” have gone by without producing innovations in this area, but this story tells us more about the future than the past. We’ve noted before that top-heavy single-payer style health care systems could suppress key technological innovations we’re going to need to make the medical industry cheaper and more efficient. This device doesn’t really fall into that category, because it’s simplicity itself, but it does show how much our medical future will be dependent on innovations we can’t even yet predict.Wonks should take note: policy is important, but innovation is where the most important action in health care is. Not in a DC think tank, but in the barbershops and car garages and offices across the world where even now the next Jorge Odon might be accidentally discovering the next simple, cheap device for improving our health care experience.