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Tailoring medical devices to developing country needs is a cause that brought together engineers, health workers, donors, and non-governmental organisations last week (7 September), reported The Guardian

Three-quarters of medical devices sent to developing countries are unsuitable, according to the WHO. Problems such as a lack of trained operators, a shortage of engineers who might be able to repair broken devices, and poor access to electricity mean that a lot of donated equipment becomes unusable.

At the conference, held by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in the United Kingdom, experts discussed ten innovations that do work. These included a 'donkey ambulance' for transporting patients in rough terrain, and a stethoscope that can be attached to a mobile phone to allow doctors to monitor patients remotely.

"For years, many hospitals around the world have been forced to rely on inappropriate hand-me-downs from richer countries, but what use is an ambulance to a village with no paved roads, or a dialysis machine to a clinic with no mains electricity," Patrick Finlay, medical division chairman at the institute, told The Guardian.

"Simple, inexpensive technologies engineered for use in the developing world have the potential to save thousands of lives.  It's now up to the engineering and development communities to get these technologies out of the workshop and into the world's poorest countries."

Link to full article in The Guardian