Thermospot: Motivation, development and use

Thermospot: Motivation, development and use

ABSTRACT: In 1996, instrument-maker and human-temperature specialist John Zeal responded to a request that he invent a give-away device to monitor the core body temperature of newborns. Combinations of malnutrition and disease kill infants in the developing world by inducing abnormally low temperatures in the body core, a condition known as hypothermia. Hypothermia, its effects often masked by malnutrition or disease, kills infants in a wide swath across tropical Africa and Asia.

In the past, illiterate mothers and carers had no way to detect hypothermia. John Zeal responded by creating ThermoSpot®. The pediatrician who asked for this device, Dr. David Morley, had spent much of his career in developing countries. (Dr. Morley was the first recipient of the King Faisal Award for International Health.) Statistics continue to show an urgent need for this indestructible, give-away tool but, despite a decade of tests showing that Thermospot works, and works well, John Zeal remains disappointed that his device is not more widely used.

My paper, It’s Hard To Do Good, ThermoSpot and the struggle to reduce infant mortality (PDF), tells the tale of Thermospot’s origins.

Developed and supported by John Zeal, Thermospot has been tested, and used, in under-developed parts of the world. The device continues to be tested in Kenya, Malawi, India and Pakistan.

Many might be saved if illiterate mothers could reveal their baby’s hypothermia by taking their temperature with this free, simple tool. If mothers could detect this invisible killer they could press their infants skin to skin between their breasts as a first resort before seeking help at the nearest village clinic. What the third world needs is a virtually no-cost, re-useable, indestructible indicator that would reveal an infant’s condition without ambiguity. Instrument-maker John Zeal created such a device, ThermoSpot®, in the mid-1990s, only to learn how difficult it is to win the world’s acceptance of a new life-saving tool.

A Thermospot adhesive disk explained