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Photographs by Lisa Shin

Fast Company

Bridging The Baby Gap

An ad veteran combats Ugandan infant mortality through design.

NEIL POWELL, executive creative director at London ad agency BMB NY, usually spends his days crafting campaigns for companies like Samsung, Virgin Active, and McCain Foods. But his newest design is for clients of a different sort--Ugandan mothers. Responding to a UNICEF call to address global health problems, Powell and colleagues designed a blanket that would swaddle newborns while educating mothers about infant care: the Information Blanket. Powell and his team formed a company of the same name and partnered with Shanti Uganda, a Ugandan not-for-profit, to distribute the blankets. Powell and Shanti Uganda representatives will begin handing them out to families in late May. "We want to keep doing this in other parts of the world," Powell says. "I see the blanket as a living, breathing, ongoing product."

The infant-mortality rate in Uganda is among the highest in the world: On average, 77 of every 1,000 Ugandan babies born will die before they reach their first birthday. Powell's team worked with UNICEF officials to determine which health facts would best educate mothers and hopefully prevent infant death. Here, the translations of the Lugandan data points and their significance.

Bridging the Baby Gap
Illustration by I Love Dust

1. "Get your baby vaccinated: 6, 10, 14 weeks." The World Health Organization recommends vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, and hepatitis B for newborns in Uganda.

2. "Breast-feed 8-12 times a day." Bella Hwang, executive director of Shanti Uganda, says that poor growth of Ugandan children can often be attributed to mothers lacking breast-feeding information.

3. "Don't forget to schedule your doctor appointment." One major problem in Uganda is that there aren't enough trained health-care workers, according to Hwang. Many postnatal exams are conducted by roving health-care workers who travel to remote villages.

4. "38˚ Celsius." This is the warning temperature for fever. "Many new moms in Uganda can't identify a fever in their child. They may think the baby is just crying because that's what babies do, not because the baby is sick," Hwang says.

5. "Growth chart (months)." The images on the blanket are especially helpful because many mothers in remote villages can't read.

6. "Warning signs: unconsciousness, convulsions, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, eye discharge, poor appetite, fast breathing, dehydration." Hwang says that identifying problem symptoms is important because "normally, the mother would try traditional herbs or practices using culturally significant items to try to cure the problem. They usually only seek help when it's too late."

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