The Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been used since medieval times for its numerous benefits.
It was highly prized in ancient times and it was even used for embalming mummies in ancient Egypt. Cinnamon comes from the inside of the bark of tropical trees of which it is peeled. It can be used as sticks, powder (made from grinding cinnamon sticks), oil and extracts.

There are two main types of cinnamon.

Ceylon cinnamon, that is native to Sri Lanka and is more expensive. It is usually referred to as “true cinnamon”. Cassia cinnamon, a cheaper type that is widely used.

Cinnamon has numerous benefits.

Powerful Antioxidant

Cinnamon acts as a powerful antioxidant. It was found to contain a higher antioxidant content than many herbs and spices famous for their healthy effect. The antioxidants fight oxidative stress in the body caused by free radicals. This slows down the process of aging as well as protects from serious diseases such as cancer.

Type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases

Cinnamon improves the blood glucose level and can thus helps with type 2 diabetes. It was also found to reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and can thus protect from heart diseases.

Anti-fungal and Anti-bacterial properties

Cinnamon has potent anti-fungal properties such as stopping the overgrowth of Candida Albicans in the digestive tract. It also boosts the immunity and so the body can further fight off candida in the digestive tract, the oral cavity and the vagina.

Cinnamon was also found to prevent the growth of certain types of bacteria. The anti-bacterial properties of cinnamon make it a natural mouthwash that can guarantee fresh breaths. It kills the bacteria living in the mouth and can thus treat and prevent tooth decay and mouth sores.

The antiseptic properties of cinnamon can be used in case of wounds. Adding a small amount of cinnamon powder to a wound can kill bacteria which will promote a faster wound healing.

Skin health

Cinnamon was proved to promote skin health. Mixtures of cinnamon oil and olive oil were found to improve fine lines. Also, mixtures of cinnamon and honey were effectively used for conditions such as eczema and acne.

Adding cinnamon to the daily diet was discovered to improve the skin condition. It eliminates toxins from the body and thus prevents them from clogging the pores. The result is a better-toned skin. Cinnamon oil is a great choice for massage.


Cinnamon can be used to preserve foods due to its antimicrobial properties and its content of potent antioxidants. It can be employed to preserve foods without the need of using artificial preservatives. It was found to prevent the discoloration of fruits.

Cinnamon can prevent neurodegenerative diseases

Cinnamon was observed to have a promising potential in case of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, cinnamon is known to contain two compounds that prevent the accumulation of the tau protein, which is the hallmark of the disease. It can shield the body from neurodegeneration by protecting the brain cells from mutation.

Cinnamon has many benefits in the long run. It is recommended to increase our daily intake of this herb or spice. It can be added to tea and coffee for consumption. It can be sprinkled over toast and other baked products. It can be used to sweeten the drinks instead of sugar and without adding more calories to your diet.

Also, there are cinnamon capsules that can be administered by mouth. Using cinnamon as much as possible in our recipes is highly recommended. It is also advisable to prepare mixtures containing cinnamon for cosmetic purposes.

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Turmeric Curcumin to Relieve Joint Pain

Many of us aren’t big fans of taking over the counter medicines. It’s mainly for the fact that these medicines take its toll in our livers and kidneys. However, there are so many alternatives you can find out in the market to treat your arthritis. In fact, you can probably find this ingredient inside your very own pantry.

Turmeric is a spice that is easily accessible to everybody. In fact, you can buy them in the grocery stores, in the wet market or even from a local organic shop. They are either sold in its root form, pulverized or packed in capsules. There are numerous studies conducted about this spice. Aside from the bold flavor it provides in curry dishes and other Asian cuisines, it proves to be a very important spice that many people can benefit from. Turmeric has an active ingredient that possesses potent anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties that we can all benefit from.

In the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, it was noted that its anti-inflammatory properties are all due to the pigment that gives it its orange color. It says that it can inhibit enzymes that are responsible of the inflammation. In fact, it can influence 700 genes! Its inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 and 5-lipooxygenase is clear and evident. if taken every day for the 30 to 42 days, turmeric is as effective as any other over-the-counter drugs that are typically used by everybody. One example of that is Ibuprofen.


Individuals taking Curcumin reported that their pain was significantly reduced and they have become more mobile than they ever were. The control group of individuals in the study reported that they did not notice any significant improvements. There are also many studies that suggest that Turmeric Curcumin can actually block inflammatory pathways effectively. This prevents pain and swelling. It is clearly evident that the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin do not only help with pain but it actually prevents swelling, redness and heat.

Aside from its anti-inflammatory benefits, Turmeric Curcumin is also known to help diseases like cystic fibrosis, gallstones. Chrohn’s disease, osteoarthritis, Psoriasis, Cancer, Diabetes, Muscle Regeneration, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

If you are wondering how you can maximize your intake of turmeric, you can do it in a number of ways. If you wish to incorporate it in your food, make sure to use pure Turmeric. Pre-packaged curry powder often contain many other ingredients. Some of them contain very little turmeric. What you can do is make your own blend for your curry.

Another way to do it is to consider taking them in supplement forms. There are so many Turmeric supplements sold out there. Some of them are sold in pills, capsules and teas. This is more convenient if you are not too used or too fond of Asian cuisines. You only need to make sure that you purchase your turmeric supplements from a reliable seller. It should be organic and of high quality.

For faster absorption in the body, you can opt to use microemulsion method. It sounds so much science but it really isn’t at all. What you only need to do is to mix your turmeric powder, melted coconut oil and egg yolks. Using a high speed hand blender, you can emulsify your turmeric before you take it.

One important caution is that turmeric has a very orangey-yellowish pigment that is hard to remove. It stains your hands and clothes so much that it would take plenty of washes for you to get a clean shirt back. If you have white counter tops, make sure to be careful. For full benefits, look for turmeric extracts that contain organic ingredients. It should have at least 95% curcuminoids, free of fillers, and additives.

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Heath and Pollution in California

California is one of the most polluted states in the United States. A study conducted in 2008 at California State University, Fullerton CA, found that air pollution in California is claiming more lives than car accidents.

Pollution in California relates to the degree of pollution in the air, water, and land of the state of California. Pollution is defined as the addition of any substance (solid, liquid, or gas) or any form of energy (such as heat, sound, or radioactivity) to the environment at a faster rate than it can be dispersed, diluted, decomposed, recycled, or stored in some harmless form.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) works to protect the health of Californians by monitoring environmental contaminants and their related diseases, studying the impact of these contaminants on human health, and informing the public about how to best protect their health from harmful pollutants.

Air pollution is any substance in the air that is harmful to people or the environment. The California Air Resources Board works to reduce: smog-forming emissions air toxics particulate matter climate changing gases smog is the most pervasive form of air pollution, immediately impacting our ability to breathe and causing underlying health conditions to worsen.

Smog, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases such as methane are vital contributors to global warming and the cause of various health issues. To understand the environmental issue of air pollution within the Central Valley but specifically Fresno, it is best to understand where Fresno is geographically located.

Part of the issue is how CA waste disposal processes are implemented and developed. Clearly if we could better discard hazard materials and other pollutants instead of letting them reach the environment, we would generate less pollution in California. Renting a dumpster is a solution in case you want to remove a large quantity of garbage from your home or business.

The California Ocean Protection Council published the California Ocean Science Trust Plastic Debris in the Ocean, UNEP Year Book Emerging Issues in Our Global Environment 2019 Access California Coastal Cleanup Day historical data, including top ten lists of debris items, and collection data dating back to 1989. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) establishes health-based ambient air quality standards to identify outdoor pollutant levels that are considered safe for the public – including those individuals most sensitive to the effects of air pollution, such as children and the elderly.

Another recent paper about health issues is the Children’s Health Study (Contract 94-331, Completed in 2004). The Children’s Health Study was a prospective study of about 6,000 children living in 12 Southern California communities with varying ambient air pollution profiles. The primary purpose of the study was to determine whether air pollution causes chronic adverse respiratory health effects. The California cities of Windsor, Visalia, and Fresno all reached “very unhealthy” levels of pollution last year, which could lead to “more serious health effects,” according to the EPA.

Air quality is acceptable in general. However for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution. Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

Forget the Golden State. California should be called the Smoggy State. Eight of the USA’s 10 most-polluted cities, in terms of ozone pollution, are in California, according to the American Lung Association. Health and cost effects of pollution varied across the state. Breathing polluted air is bad for us. The adverse health effects are well established, ranging from minor restrictions in activity to emergency room (ER) visits for asthma, hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular causes, and premature mortality.

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Some ideas about a healthy diet

The suggestion doctors used to give patients about getting rid of all the fat to lose weight and have a healthy heart is not accurate. Studies could prove that people who have the Mediterranean diet with more extra-virgin olive oil lost more unwanted pounds.

Actually, it is so easy to find the Mediterranean diet in the grocery store. There are so many foods that contain nutrients that are identified to boost longevity and have so many health benefits that are supported by numerous scientific studies.


You do not have to fear fat in food anymore, at least if it comes from extra-virgin olive oil and other items.

Fat is really back and a new research shows it.

A new study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology’s new edition does not give you the license to chow down on a cake or have another dessert. However, it gives you the right to have an egg for breakfast if you fry it in olive oil, instead of butter, and abstain from the toasted white bread and bacon.

Another study finds that high-fat Mediterranean diet does not actually cause weight gain. Researchers discovered that individuals whose diets were abundant in nuts and olive oil lost more weight than those who have the low-fat regime. A major study found the same results.

Fear of fat or pocrescophobia is misplaced, and the dietary guidelines that limit it in our diets are erroneous. This is the statement coming from the Spanish researchers who have studied over 7,000 individuals. Some of the participants consume 50ml of extra virgin olive oil or 30 grams of nuts daily, while others were following a standard low-fat diet.

The Spanish researchers are confidently saying that we should put healthy fats back on the menu. The fats in your diet must come from fish and vegetables. This new findings and guidelines will definitely change the way we eat and our eating attitudes.

The Predimed published the results of their randomized controlled trial on fats and weight loss. The Mediterranean diet in this study, even with high in fats does not contain butter or red meat. The participants only ate whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. The trial excluded foods and beverages that have been linked with long-term weight gain, such as butter, fast foods, red and processed meats, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The participants were divided into three groups. The first group consumed an unlimited calorie Mediterranean diet with an increased amount of extra virgin olive oil, while the second group consumed an unlimited diet with extra nuts. The last group has a low-fat diet and given small non-food items every quarter, such as spoons and forks.

Over 90% of those who participated, ages ranging from 55 to 80 were overweight or obese. In addition, weight loss was not sizable but was best in the Mediterranean diet with olive oil group. The group lost 0.88kg compared with 0.60kg on the low-fat diet. All the participants experienced an increased on their waistlines, which likely to happen as people age. The smallest increase was among those who participated belonging to the nuts group, which is 0.37cm compared. The fat diminisher group has 1.2cm waist measurement increased.

Based on these results, the Barcelona-based researchers propose that the Mediterranean diet should be modified. More healthy fats should be added because of their health benefits, which include reducing the risks of cancer and heart disease.

The idea that eating fat will make people overweight because it is high in calories started four decades ago. This led to mass sales of fat-free and low-fat foods and beverages in the supermarkets. Sadly, this belief and practice only contributed to the alarming obesity epidemic, as food and beverage manufacturers used sugar and other carbohydrates to replace fat in everything from yoghurts, to kinds of milks to ready meals.

A doctor from the Spanish Biomedical Research Centre in Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition at the University of Barcelona named Ramon Estruch, said that over four decades of nutritional policy has believed and promoted the low-fat diet, but there is only a small impact on the increasing levels of obesity.

Their study illustrates that a Mediterranean diet loaded with nuts and vegetable fats like olive oil had minimal effect on waist circumference or body weight compared with people that are following a low-fat diet. The findings absolutely do not entail that unrestricted diet with high levels of harmful fats like processed meat, fast foods, butter, desserts and sweetened beverages are valuable.

Overweight and obesity are putting millions of people at risk of cancers, diabetes, strokes and heart disease. These are truly global concerns of today. The classic suggestion for losing weight is to follow a low-fat diet according to the researchers, while the World Health Organization and other health-related bodies advocate that fat should make up no more than 30 percent of our diet.

Another great thing about the Mediterranean diet is it helps stop breast cancer from recurring.

Prof Dariush Mozaffarian writes that the dietary guidelines should be amended to bury the obsolete, arbitrary confines on total consumption. Dr. Mozaffarian is an American cardiologist and epidemiologist. He is currently the dean of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

He added that calorie-obsessed warnings about healthier, higher-fat options like yoghurt, nuts, phenolic-rich vegetable oils, and some cheese varieties, must also be dropped. The world should discard the allegory that lower calorie, lower-fat product leads to lesser weight gain.

Dr. Mozaffarian emphasized the need for us to focus on the quality of the food we eat rather than the calorie content on the restaurant menus. It is absurd to forbid whole milk, but tolerate sugar-sweetened, fat-free milk.

We cannot simply use the fat contents of foods and diets as a measurement to judge long-term benefits and dangers. It should be in our awareness that the total caloric contents and energy density can be equally deceptive. To a certain extent, the up-to-date scientific evidence backs the emphasis on eating more calories coming from beans, vegetable oils, nuts, fruits, yoghurt, some whole grains and fish. Calories from highly processed foods loaded with salt, starch, trans-fat and sugar. Unfortunately, the world tends to ignore these pieces of evidence – including the findings from the Predimed trial. Sorry to say, it is at our own risk.

The Vice President for Policy of the Faculty of Public Health Prof Simon Capewell says that there is a need to promote a Mediterranean diet with nuts and olive oil. We should also reduce our meat intake, refined carbohydrates, animal fats, junk food and sugary beverages.

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Gradian II: Marketing to Multiple Stakeholders in a Complicated Field

This post explores how Gradian Health Systems is tackling the challenge of marketing its Universal Anaesthesia Machine to four distinct but interconnected stakeholder groups: users, hospitals, Ministries of Health, and donor organizations. It was written by Julie Manriquez, Lyn Denend, and Professor Stefanos Zenios of the Stanford GSB’s Program in Healthcare Innovation.

The Problem/Solution Space

Of the more than 230 million major surgical procedures performed worldwide each year (1), roughly 15 percent are completed with substandard anesthesia. (2) This problem is particularly prevalent in developing countries, where hospitals often lack adequate infrastructure and equipment to perform safe anesthesia procedures. Although many facilities either purchase or receive donations of conventional anesthesia machinery used in hospitals in more developed countries, these devices are often inappropriate for the realities of low-resource surgical settings. According to some estimates, hospitals in developing regions experience an average of 18 power outages per month. (3) They also face regular shortages of compressed medical oxygen. Either of these problems will cause conventional anesthesia machines to shut down (4), creating devastating consequences for patients. Moreover, when conventional equipment malfunctions or breaks, hospitals in low-income settings frequently cannot get replacement parts and/or have no one qualified to perform the necessary repairs.

About Gradian and the UAM

Substandard infrastructure is a common problem, particularly in rural hospitals (photo courtesy of Gradian Health Systems)

In 1986, Dr. Paul Fenton, a British anesthesiologist, accepted a position as Head of the Department of Anesthesia at a busy teaching hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. Over the 15 years he spent working in that environment, he gained extended exposure to the many challenges that surgeons and anesthesiologists face in low-resource settings. After observing too many unnecessary injuries and deaths caused by surgeries that were interrupted or canceled due to the unavailability of anesthesia, Fenton designed a machine that could deliver safe, reliable anesthesia even in the midst of a power outage. The device, which he called the Universal Anaesthesia Machine (UAM), also generated its own oxygen from an integrated oxygen concentrator, which eliminated reliance on expensive cylinder or pipeline gas. If no electricity or other source of oxygen was available, the UAM defaulted to room air and always included oxygen monitoring to ensure the safety of the gas mixture. (5)

After testing the UAM at his hospital in Malawi, Fenton sought to expand production. However, it took him more than a decade to line up the funding and support necessary to bring the idea to market. In 2009, Fenton joined forces with the Nick Simons Foundation, a private philanthropy supporting the Nick Simons Institute, which trained health workers to address needs in remote areas of Nepal. (6) The foundation provided seed funding to further develop and test the UAM. Based on the positive results of those studies in the U.K. and Nepal, the Nick Simons Foundation spun out an organization it called Gradian Health Systems to produce and commercialize the UAM on a global basis.

Gradian was established as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the foundation. Structurally, it operated as a nonprofit, selling the UAM at its manufacturing cost so that sales and production of the device would become self-sustaining and scalable within several years. With philanthropic funding from the foundation, the company could underwrite the cost of end-user training at installation and a full after-sales service program. This structure was in line with the Nick Simons Foundation’s broader goals and Gradian’s specific mission, “to improve access to safe surgery and perioperative care by providing technology, service, and training to strengthen anesthesia capabilities.” (7)

One Challenge: Marketing to Multiple Stakeholders in a Complicated Field

Anesthesia providers in Nigeria receive training on using the Gradian UAM (photo courtesy of Gradian Health Systems)

Gradian’s UAM faced two primary forms of competition. First, as Erica Frenkel, Director of Business Strategy, explained, “We compete against conventional anesthesia machines that are designed for operating theaters in developed settings. That means they’re reliant on electricity and compressed oxygen.” (8) Even though this equipment was often not well suited to operating rooms in developing countries, several major medical device manufacturers had released basic models of their conventional machines in an effort to penetrate facilities in select geographies. “They’re coming out pretty aggressively in certain emerging markets,” Frenkel noted. The second type of competition came from other products, like the UAM, that were designed specifically for low-resource environments. “There’s really only one other company that makes another anesthesia machine that can be used in any circumstances,” she said. “Right now,” Frenkel summarized, “we’re seeing both kinds of competition. When a hospital or Ministry of Health needs to purchase an anesthesia machine, they’re looking at products across the board.”

Gradian generally was perceived as a good value in both product categories—the company offered a high-quality product at a competitive price. The UAM was CE certified and manufactured according to ISO quality standards. Gradian further distinguished the product from other companies working in the space through its commitment to comprehensive training and service, made possible by funding from the foundation.

The challenge was that Gradian’s small team had to market and sell the UAM to four distinct but interconnected stakeholder groups: users, hospitals, Ministries of Health, and donor organizations. The direct users of the product were the anesthesia providers who, in the developing world, were often not medical doctors. Instead, they were mid-level health care practitioners with specialized (although sometimes minimal) training in basic anesthesia delivery. These providers personally experienced the challenges created by the unreliable and unsafe equipment used in low-resource operating rooms. They were perhaps the easiest to convince of the UAM’s benefits but, as Frenkel pointed out, “They’re not the ones with the resources or decision-making power.” Those with the ability to make purchasing decisions resided at the hospital or Ministry level. However, a significant percentage of facilities and Ministries in the developing world were severely resource constrained, with operating budgets that could not accommodate regular capital investments. To acquire new equipment, such as anesthesia machines, many hospitals depended on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or international donor organizations to make these purchases. Decision makers within these organizations were furthest from the problem and sometimes lacked adequate information about the needs and constraints of the facilities they intended to serve. “The users and hospitals that know what they need are often not even involved in the decision-making process for the equipment that they’re going to get,” Frenkel said.

Complicating matters further, Gradian realized that the timing of anesthesia machine sales was important. “A hospital may buy one anesthesia machine this year and not purchase another for three years or more. So how do we identify and reach these folks before they make a decision?” Frenkel questioned.

Gradian had managed to get sales of the UAM off the ground mostly through referrals. “To date I would say our marketing has been primarily word of mouth,” Frenkel stated. “We have bid on a couple of tenders. But so far we’ve really relied on NGOs that have heard about the product and come to us, or we’ve ‘cold called’ them and it has just worked out. But clearly that’s not a scalable marketing plan.” Gradian needed a comprehensive strategy for tackling these challenges.

The Solution: Developing a Coordinated, Targeted Marketing Plan

In building its marketing strategy, Gradian decided that it was essential to reach all four stakeholder groups through a coordinated, yet targeted approach. Ideally, anesthesia providers would report to hospitals what they required; and hospitals, in turn, would pass this information along to their donors who would use it to make their purchasing decisions. To begin moving toward this optimal model, the Gradian team would pursue a multi-part plan:

Publish Meaningful Results

An anesthesia provider in Ghana learns to use the UAM (photo courtesy of Gradian Health Systems)

As a top priority, Gradian would continue to conduct field studies of the UAM in collaboration with well-known, respected partners. For example, said Frenkel, “Johns Hopkins University is doing a study in its simulation lab in Baltimore, as well as in the field in Sierra Leone.” Gradian, which sometimes provided funding for the studies, insisted that they be conducted according to the highest scientific standards so that the results would be publishable in peer-reviewed journals. “We see that as a really important component of generating credibility,” Frenkel commented. All four of Gradian’s target stakeholder groups responded favorably to the availability of positive scientific data about the UAM and its benefits. “The studies are really just an extension of our work,” she added, “but they provide an invaluable way to get information into the public domain.”

Build a Network of Key Opinion Leaders

In parallel, the company would actively seek to expand its network of “champions”—highly respected users and hospital personnel who had direct experience with the value that the UAM delivered—in Gradian’s target geographies. These advocates were unpaid, but passionate about improving anesthesia safety in their countries. As such, they could be engaged to answer questions about the UAM and share their experiences with other users and hospitals, either on their own or at Gradian’s request. As Frenkel put it, “It’s very influential and boosts our credibility in the sales process when we’re not the ones saying that it’s a great machine.” Moreover, with a small team, Gradian could not be everywhere at once. “Our champions become our spokespeople, or an extension of us on the ground,” she added.

Connect with Users Through Conferences and Professional Societies

Another way that Gradian would involve users was to engage with them through medical conferences and professional society activities. “Even though their voices are quiet in the grand cacophony of bureaucratic decisions like these, the end users need to be heard,” Frenkel explained. “We certainly can’t go to every hospital in Africa,” she continued, “but through conferences and events we can reach large numbers of potential users.” For instance, Gradian had recently attended the conference of the Kenyan Society of Anaesthesiologists, where it was able to demonstrate the UAM to numerous anesthesia providers from the area. The team’s hope was that these users would start asking for the device when they returned to the hospitals where they worked. Gradian also used these interactions as a way to gather user feedback. “They help us understand the anesthesia community’s needs and interests,” Frenkel stated.

Develop Targeted Marketing Collateral

While all four constituencies stood to benefit from the UAM, each one had slightly different needs or “pain points” that the device would help address. The Gradian team worked to carefully understand the differences between its stakeholders’ points of view and then created marketing messages and materials that were tailored to each group “We developed a whole cadre of collateral that we used to speak to the different constituencies,” said Frenkel. These materials were used to broadly raise awareness among users, hospitals, Ministries of Health, and governments/NGOs.

Make the Most of Large-Scale Tenders

In an effort to win more contracts for large-scale government and NGO orders, Gradian invested significant time and energy into better understanding the tender process and how it could optimally present the UAM in its proposals. “Part of it is understanding how the decision-making processes work for these major organizations,” Frenkel said. Another key aspect was raising awareness among these entities that affordable, appropriate technologies like the UAM even existed. To assist the company in this area, Gradian hired an outside consultant “to help us learn how to really speak to these types of organizations,” she noted.

Create a Database of Donor Organizations

To reach high-volume purchasers outside the tender process, Gradian planned to develop a list of the wide variety of organizations that made purchasing decisions for individual hospitals. For example, “In Malawi, we targeted a number of organizations that we had worked with, and in Uganda we’re starting to get a sense of organizations that train users but also fund equipment,” Frenkel said. The Gradian team gathered information about these organizations and also started tracking what it could about their purchasing cycles so that a team member could approach them at an appropriate time. “The idea is to get ahead of the organizations, before they make a decision about anesthesia equipment, so we can make them aware of the UAM, begin a dialog, and answer their questions,” she explained.

In 2012, Gradian was implementing this approach to help the company address its marketing challenges. “It’s like a huge knot we’re trying to untangle,” Frenkel described. “I wouldn’t say by any stretch of the imagination that we’ve solved it, but we’re working on it.” So far, the early phases of this plan had enabled Gradian to expand the sites where the UAM was being used from 2 to 11 countries.


(1) T.G. Weiser, et al., “An Estimation of the Global Volume of Surgery: A Modeling Strategy Based on Available Data,” The Lancet, July 2008, pp. 139-44, (September 13, 2012).
(2) The Challenge, Gradian Health Systems, (September 17, 2012).
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.
(5) “Birth of the UAM,” Gradian Health Systems, (September 17, 2012).
(6) Company, Gradian Health Systems, (September 17, 2012).
(7) Ibid.
(8) All quotations are from an interview with Erica Frenkel conducted by the authors unless otherwise cited.
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The East Meets West Foundation: Expanding Organizational Capacity

This post describes how the East Meets West Foundation helped its overseas partner expand its engineering and manufacturing capabilities as it pursued the need for an infant phototherapy solution designed to meet the requirements of low resource environments. It was written by Edward Sheen, Lyn Denend, and Professor Stefanos Zenios of the Stanford GSB’s Program in Healthcare Innovation.

The Problem/Solution Space

Worldwide, 60 percent of all newborns experience infant jaundice caused by hyperbilirubinemia (excess levels of bilirubin in the bloodstream). (1) The percentage of infants affected in Asia is even higher. Bilirubin is a yellow-colored pigment created when the body replaces old red blood cells. The liver breaks down bilirubin so that it can be re-moved by the body, but in premature babies with immature liver function and those with certain underlying diseases, bilirubin levels may be high enough to cause brain damage and permanent disability.

An infant receiving phototherapy with Firefly (photo courtesy of East Meets West)

In the U.S. and developed nations, infant jaundice is treated with widely available photo-therapy, in which blue-light of a specific wavelength is shined upon the skin. The blue light causes chemical reactions within bilirubin molecules that enable the body to excrete bilirubin harmlessly into the urine and stool. Infants with jaundice who receive photo-therapy have the same opportunity to enjoy normal, healthy lives as other newborns. Within a couple of weeks, their liver function usually matures sufficiently to metabolize bilirubin such that no further phototherapy is needed.

Every year in South Asia and Africa, more than 5.7 million newborns with jaundice do not receive the simple phototherapy needed to prevent brain damage. Newborn jaundice and complications caused by jaundice account for an estimated 6–10 percent of neonatal mortality worldwide. (2)

About the East Meets West Foundation

The East Meets West Foundation (EMW) is an international development agency with the mission to “transform the health, education, and communities of disadvantaged people in Asia.” (3) EMW is headquartered in Oakland, California but operates programs with its local partners throughout Vietnam, as well as in Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines. EMW medical programs provide direct assistance to patients and build health system capacity by training medical staff as well as building improved medical facilities. Current programs include Breath of Life, Operation Healthy Heart, Support Network for People with Disabilities, dietary supplements, dental care, and hospital construction.

A mother with a baby helped by Breath of Life (Photo by Hanh Nguyen for East Meets West)

In 2012, Breath of Life (BOL) was EMW’s largest medical program. BOL targeted hypothermia, respiratory distress, hyperbilirubinemia, and other common causes of infant mortality in the developing world by providing a complete package of custom-made, low-cost medical equipment to neo-natal care providers at no cost. The BOL suite included a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP), which treated infants in respiratory distress, an infant resuscitation station, pulse oximeters, hand sanitizers, and phototherapy machines to treat neo-natal jaundice. Collectively, this equipment constituted a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that was both cost-effective and low-maintenance. To help ensure that the equipment was used correctly and consistently over time, EMW’s BOL team proactively worked with care providers and administrators at the hospitals to help them integrate these technologies into their operations. (4)

According to EMW President John Anner, a critical part of the solution for reducing neonatal mortality in the developing world was “the development of facility-based neo-natal intensive care technologies that can be delivered to millions of families around the world.” He continued, “This does not mean that every town in rural India and Africa has to have a NICU stuffed full of modern pieces of equipment that each cost more than a new car. But it does mean that every family should have access to a facility that offers the basics.” (5) Anner underscored the need for equipment that was affordable and durable, with limited consumable parts. Moreover, it should be engineered specifically for low resource settings and supported by “a comprehensive solution that addresses issues of staff capacity, long-term viability, robust after-sales service, and so on,” he added. “The moment the equipment arrives at the hospital or clinic is the moment the intensive work starts, not finishes.” (6)

One Challenge: Expanding Organizational Capacity

Following its launch in 2005, Breath of Life had addressed many of the needs outlined by Anner. Between 2005 and 2009, BOL distributed more than 450 CPAP machines and more than 500 other pieces of neonatal care equipment to more than 130 hospitals in 58 different provinces in Vietnam. BOL also provided training on equipment use and advanced newborn care to more than 2,000 Vietnamese physicians and nurses. These efforts supported the treatment of approximately 20,000 infants per year. (7)Based on the program’s success, the Lemelson Foundation supported its expansion to Cambodia and Laos in 2008, which by 2010 had increased the number of hospitals served to 200 and the total number of infants treated each year to 45,000. (8)

As EMW expanded BOL in Asia, it recognized the need to develop more effective therapy for infant jaundice. Conventional phototherapy equipment from wealthy nations was too expensive for widespread adoption in the developing world. Even when donated, this equipment was not suited to operate in hot and humid climates with unreliable electricity and rugged terrain, and broke down easily. Within five years, approximately 98 percent of western phototherapy devices donated to the developing world were broken or no longer being used because these regions had limited technical capacity for basic maintenance. (9)

BOL included a “bili bed” to treat jaundice but, according to Anner, it provided suboptimal phototherapy and “just didn’t work that well.” (10) Additionally, the equipment could only be operated within an intensive care unit, which exposed jaundiced neonates to critically ill infants. As Anner explained, “The intensive care unit is a very dangerous place. That’s where all the germs live. The hospitals we work in often put two, three, four infants to a bed. Any of those babies that have sepsis easily transmit all those germs to all the other babies. If you have a single baby that does not have to be in the intensive care unit, then you can make a big reduction in infection rates as infection in many of these hospitals is the number one killer of babies.”

As the BOL program grew, it also sought to expand from large, provincial referral hospitals to small district-level and community hospitals, as well as health care facilities in rural areas. These health care settings did not have the staffing, technical expertise, and electrical power sources needed to utilize the bili bed or the complete Breath of Life NICU suite. EMW was interested in an infant phototherapy solution designed specifically to fit the needs and conditions of these environments.

Based on its experience in the field, EMW had a detailed understanding of the design requirements for a new jaundice solution. Yet it did not have the design capabilities needed to develop the product and neither did its existing partners. EMW had been relying on Medical Technology Transfer Services (MTTS), a local Vietnamese firm, to manufacture and deliver its neonatal care tools. MTTS specialized in adapting Western technology to the needs, resources, and other conditions of the local environment. EMW routinely presented MTTS with specific clinical problems, financed the necessary re-search and development to create or adapt solutions, and then purchased the finished products. However, at the time, MTTS did not have a team of seasoned design engineers. Anner would have to look elsewhere for this support.

The Solution: Establishing a Partnership for Custom Product Design and Organizational Learning

In deciding how to address this challenge, EMW took a forward-looking perspective that would allow it to strengthen its existing partnership with MTTS rather than simply work around it. Anner wanted to find a way to augment MTTS capabilities while also developing the new phototherapy solution. “I wanted to get MTTS moving away from sheet metal bending into work with plastics, injection molding, or plastic extrusion, which is a capacity they did not have, and which did not exist in Vietnam,” he recalled. His goal was to help MTTS to “move along the knowledge trajectory” to develop more advanced engineering and manufacturing capabilities.

Firefly allows a mother to interact with her infant during phototherapy (Copyright Design That Matters, all right reserved)

The EMW team prepared a design brief and shared it with several well-known design companies. It ultimately chose to work with Design that Matters (DtM), a nationally recognized nonprofit design firm headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. EMW and DtM began collaborating in 2009. This decision was driven, in part, by DtM’s willingness to partner closely with MTTS throughout the design and development process.

DtM’s mission is to develop products and services that allow social enterprises in developing countries to overcome barriers to achieving scale and impact in the health care, education, and clean water fields. The company had acquired substantial experience designing low-cost, contextually appropriate innovations for neonatal care in low-resource settings. These innovations included NeoNurture, a model incubator fashioned from used car parts, and a low-cost CPAP device.

Using EMW’s design brief as a launching point, DtM engaged hundreds of volunteers from academia and industry in the U.S., Europe, and parts of the developing world to contribute their expertise towards solving the following problem:

Low-resource hospitals providing overnight care that wish to improve treatment outcomes and reduce newborn referrals need a cost-effective, intuitive, durable tool that can be placed in the mother’s room to provide individual infant phototherapy to otherwise healthy newborns with mild to severe jaundice while allowing infant warming.

The team’s main challenge was designing a phototherapy solution that could yield effective clinical outcomes while being compatible with low-cost manufacturing, maintenance, and repair techniques to enable neonatal care teams in Vietnam to take over production, distribution, and servicing. Yet “the techniques still needed to give the device a high-quality, professional aesthetic.” (11) Anner told DtM early on, “I really want you to come up with a medical device that looks just incredibly cool so that physicians in rural hospitals would say, ‘I really like that. That looks great. I want that in my hospital. It looks like something that works well.’”

The resulting product was named “Firefly.” As DtM CEO Tim Prestero explained, “The firefly is a symbol of hope and joy, light in darkness, and is found worldwide.” (12) The new product offered numerous innovations, including energy-efficient, long-lasting LED lights; lighting above and below the bassinet to maximize the body surface area of infants receiving treatment, which yielded the potential for reduced treatment time and lower rates of infection; a compact and portable design that allowed installation in the recovery room next to mothers and kept babies out of the intensive care unit; and a bassinet designed to hold only one infant, which discouraged multiple infants from blocking light or spreading infection. (13) Firefly also had a low manufacturing cost and offered cost-effective performance relative to competitive products. DtM estimated that Firefly could cure newborn jaundice for $1.50 per infant compared to $5-8 per infant with other phototherapy devices (clinical trials ongoing). (14)

Throughout the design process, DtM provided MTTS with introduction to modern engineering methods and training, as Anner had hoped. Together, DtM and MTTS discussed every engineering detail and selected materials and manufacturing methods that would improve the performance of Firefly while enabling local production. DtM provided MTTS with new metal tube bending equipment at a low cost, and instructed MTTS engineers how to operate it to form Firefly’s structure. (15) DtM also introduced MTTS to other low-cost manufacturing techniques, including vacuum forming, aluminum extrusion, and injection molding to improve the durability and aesthetic of Firefly. (16) Each of these new capabilities would enable MTTS to better serve EMW’s product design, development, and production needs in the future.

In parallel, DtM also realized significant benefits from this partnership. Although DtM had a track record of developing innovative design concepts, it had virtually no experience bringing them to market at a large scale. Through MTTS, EMW provided DtM with access to local production and product support capabilities. Perhaps most importantly, EMW shared with DtM its extensive network of neonatal care partners throughout Southeast Asia, providing the clinical infrastructure and organization needed for testing and distribution to patients.

EMW completed a clinical trial in November 2011, and Firefly officially cured its first infant with jaundice one month later. With Firefly, the baby required only 17 hours of phototherapy; physicians estimated that with a conventional phototherapy device, his cure would have required 2 to 3 days of treatment. (17) As of mid-2012, Firefly was undergoing larger-scale clinical testing and production, and the team was expanding the project to India, the Philippines, and Cambodia. Having achieved significant synergy, EMW and DtM also continued working together to develop additional neonatal care tools for Southeast Asia.


(1) “Hyperbilirubinemia and Jaundice,” Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, (June 14, 2012).
(2) “Project Firefly,” Design That Matters, (June 14, 2012).
(3) “Overview,” East Meets West, (June 14, 2012).
(4) “Breath of Life: Neonatal Health, Program Overview,” East Meets West, (June 14, 2012).
(5) John Anner, “My Daughter’s Story: Fighting Prematurity, Advancing Technology for Newborns,” January 3, 2012 (June 14, 2012).
(6) Ibid.
(7) “Breath of Life: Key Statistics,” East Meets West, (June 14, 2012)
(8) Lemelson Foundation Fact Sheet, (June 14, 2012).
(9) “Firefly Phototherapy: A Brief Intro,” Design That Matters, (June 14, 2012).
(10) All quotations are from interviews conducted by the authors unless otherwise cited.
(11) Leslie Gordon, “Designing for Places That Can’t Afford High Tech,”, March 22, 2012, (June 14, 2012).
(12) “Firefly Lights up Vietnam Hospitals,” East Meets West, (June 14, 2012).
(13) “Firefly,” Design That Matters, (June 4, 2012).
(14) Ibid.
(15) Leslie Gordon, “Designing for Places That Can’t Afford High Tech,”, March 22, 2012, (June 14, 2012).
(16) “Yanko Design Features Firefly Phototherapy,” Design That Matters, (June 14, 2012).
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