Health TED Fellows

Women and children first: Fellows Friday with Zubaida Bai, who creates lifesaving kits for maternal health

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Engineer and health entrepreneur Zubaida Bai is passionate about improving women’s lives. Through her company AYZH, she develops health products — such as the $2 Clean Birth Kit — designed to reduce maternal and infant mortality in underprivileged communities around the world. AYZH is about to launch an Indiegogo funding campaign to produce an impact analysis report on Clean Birth Kits, as well as a mobile health education platform. Here, she tells us about how she got started and her vision for women’s health.

What is your background, and what led you to start AYZH?

Growing up in India, I witnessed my mother and many women struggle with financial hardship and poor health. At a young age, I often dreamed of solutions to end this silent suffering of women. It was after earning my Masters of Science in mechanical engineering and working in the social development space for seven years that I gave birth to my first child and contracted an infection due to unsanitary birthing conditions. Doctors told me that I would not be able to have another child. It mae me very determined to make my childhood dream come true — to improve the lives of women — so I moved to the United States to obtain my MBA from Colorado State University. As an engineer, I wanted the business acumen needed to bring affordable health technologies to women in developing world markets. With the support of my husband and classmates, I founded AYZH in 2010 and launched our first product, a $2 Clean Birth Kit.

What is your primary goal?

AYZH aims to be the leading global provider of life-saving, life-changing health products for underprivileged women worldwide. Our goals are to reduce maternal and infant mortality through improved quality of care at time of birth.

Our long-term vision is to fulfill our potential to prevent deadly and debilitating infections for 6 million women over the next five years by giving them increased access to a clean, safe delivery and a healthy start to a new life. Ultimately, with post-partum health, women have more time, money and opportunity to lift their entire family out of poverty.

AYZH’s $2 Clean Birth Kit, which includes clamp and scalpel blade, a sterile surface and sterilizing hand wipes.

Give us an idea of some of your products

Our first and core product — a $2 Clean Birth Kit called Janma (which means birth) — contains all the essential tools required to ensure safe and sterile conditions at the time of childbirth. Women in India are hired by AYZH to assemble the contents of the kit, which come packaged in a biodegradable jute bag that new mothers can reuse as a purse.

AYZH aims to expand its “kit style” product line to address new needs of existing clients (e.g. newborn care, prevention of postpartum hemorrhage and menstrual hygiene solutions). Our product suite is being developed in tandem with the Safe Birth Checklist Initiative of the World Health Organization; when the checklist launched, AYZH was well-poised to be a “one stop shop” for a happy and healthy start to life for mothers and newborns.

We sell products through for-profit health institutions (hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and rural healthcare centers) and non-profit aid organizations. By targeting for-profit health institutions, we make our kits available at point of use, where there’s increased opportunity for timely and effective use by a trained healthcare worker.

You’ll soon be launching a funding campaign in support of a couple of new projects. Can you tell us about it?

Starting August 18 and ending on World Gratitude Day, September 21, AYZH is running an Indiegogo campaign, hoping to raise $50,000 to help fund two key initiatives. We have partnered with research scholars at Harvard University to create an “impact analysis” that will provide scientific data on how Clean Birth Kits prevent infection and save lives. In collaboration with the Rural Technology and Business Incubator, we are also scaling up our innovative Mobile Phone Training program to educate rural healthcare workers. Through voice messages, healthcare workers will receive valuable information and guidance on methodology they need for successful, safe births.

You were a TED India Fellow in 2009. How was that experience, and how did it have an impact on your work and life?

The TED community gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams. I knew what I wanted to do, but being at TED actually led me to believe that passion can move mountains. It’s a different feeling being amongst people who are all passionate and best in what they do. There is nothing in this world that can give you the confidence and motivation like the folks at TED. The TED Fellows family also is with you for life — I can go to them with any question both personal and professional. I cannot imagine I’d be where I am professionally or personally without TED’s support.