News Releases
ABC News “Be The Change: Save A Life” and Duke Global Health Institute announce Maternal Health Challenge student winners
May 11, 2011

Engineering Team from Johns Hopkins University receives $10,000 and mentorship from experts at The Lemelson Foundation

May 11, 2011 – Can a pen that costs half a penny save a life? The answer is yes. ABC News and the Duke Global Health Institute are pleased to announce the winners of the Be the Change: Save a Life Maternal Health Challenge . Selected from more than 65 video entries from university students on three continents, the grand prize award of $10,000 has been awarded to a group of graduate students from the Johns Hopkins School of Engineering Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, for their invention of a low-cost health kit to screen pregnant women and newborns for life threatening conditions like gestational diabetes using a specially-designed pen. View the winning video entry here:

ABC News' global health project Be the Change: Save a Life and the Duke Global Health Institute launched a challenge for university students – undergraduate, graduates and professional students – to design emerging innovations in maternal health care. The challenge is intended to provide a launch pad to take those ideas, or prototypes, into the world. In partnership with The Lemelson Foundation, the challenge encouraged students from around the world to submit a five-minute video explaining their idea for improving maternal health.

The Johns Hopkins University Engineering Team was notified Tuesday by ABC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser. They will receive $10,000 from The Lemelson Foundation and mentorship and support in the development, marketing and distribution process of the innovation. The team will also present its idea before global health experts at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health Conference in November in Montreal, Canada.

“Sean Monagle and the team from Johns Hopkins did an outstanding job,” Besser said after notifying them of the award. “When it comes to global health, cost is an enormous barrier to care. The antenatal screening test is an incredibly innovative approach to saving the lives of pregnant women.”

Two runners up from Harvard University and Tulane University were also selected, and will receive mentorship from The Lemelson Foundation network.

The Challenge entries were judged by a distinguished panel of global health experts. Judges included:

“This Challenge showcased some of the best maternal health ideas among university students worldwide. The Lemelson Foundation is thrilled to support these winners in their efforts to implement their innovative solutions,” said Robert Lemelson, vice-president of The Lemelson Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Around the world, 350,000 women continue to die each year of complications due to childbirth. In the vast majority of cases, women are dying of preventable causes: severe bleeding, infection, obstructed labor and a host of other problems that can be averted with skilled care and improved technology. Somewhere amidst the deep pools of knowledge, creativity and passion at work in today's universities is an innovation to improve health care delivery, an inventive piece of technology designed for low-tech clinics and home delivery, or an altogether new method which could revolutionize maternal health practices.

“Universities are an ideal setting for taking a good idea, experimenting with it, testing it, changing it and then deploying it into the world,” said Michael H. Merson, founding director of the Duke Global Health Institute. “That’s why the Duke Global Health Institute was pleased to participate in this Challenge. We know university students are inspired to make a difference and there’s no better way to make a difference than to improve the lives of mothers and children.”

To learn more about Be the Change: Save a Life initiative at ABC News, visit To learn more about the Duke Global Health Institute, please visit To learn more about The Lemelson Foundation, visit

The winning entries include:

Antenatal Screening Kit

Johns Hopkins University Master of Science in Engineering Team: Sean Monagle, Maxim Budyansky, Matthew Means

This team developed an Antenatal Screening Kit, a low-cost health kit intended to screen pregnant women and newborns for life threatening conditions like gestational diabetes. Health workers use the specially-designed pen to conduct the tests, which cost less than ½ cents each. Field studies of the device have been conducted in Nepal. View their entry:

Reducing the Risk of Obstructed Labor

Harvard University MD/MBA Team: Chitra Akileswaran, Nazaneen Homaifar, Cyrus Yamin

The team developed a model to predict the risk of cephalopelvic disproportion, the primary risk factor for obstructed labor. The model would be used by community health workers who would advise women at high risk of obstructed labor to deliver at a hospital or health facility. View their entry:

Iron-fortified Tea for Women in India

Tulane University Master of Public Health Team: Cameron Taylor, Marta Bornstein, Justin Colvard, Neha Sinha, Andrew Hebert

The team developed a product called MaTea, a loose leaf tea fortified with daily doses of iron and folic acid suitable for women of reproductive age. The tea would be available to women by their doctor through a free voucher system in India, as a means of preventing anemia in pregnant women. View their video: