12 September 2022 | Statements

Next generation pulse oximeters have great potential to reduce maternal and child mortality, PATH and Unitaid report says

A technology and market landscape report by PATH and Unitaid

To date, maternal and child mortality rates remain unacceptably high. In 2020, still over 5 million children under 5 years of age died, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, and mostly from conditions that are preventable or treatable, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and preterm birth complications.

To reach maternal and child global health targets by 2030[1], equitable access to innovative devices that have the potential to support health care workers in low-resource settings as they make decisions and provide fit-for-purpose treatment solutions, is urgently needed.

Pulse oximeters (POs) are noninvasive devices that measure blood oxygen saturation and pulse rate. They are used to help health care workers detect hypoxemia – a low level of oxygen in the blood – and to know how much oxygen to administer to patients. Detecting hypoxemia can allow timely treatment with oxygen therapy and save hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

The PATH-Unitaid technology and market landscape report, launched today, reviews the nascent global market for the next generation of pulse oximetry – multimodal POs.

These devices expand the features of standard POs by collecting additional clinical measurements, such as respiratory rate, temperature, and/or haemoglobin integrated into a single device that is appropriate for use in low-resource settings. These promising products can provide objective measurements to caregivers, via the same device and at the same time, to support clinical decision-making and ultimately save lives.

The report analyzes existing and emerging products and aims to assess their potential to improve screening for various illnesses that affect maternal and child health in low- and middle-income countries.

The report also examines market and technological challenges that hamper the adoption, scale-up and wide access in low-resource settings to these potentially lifesaving tools and maps out opportunities to overcome barriers limiting equitable access, including issues related to quality, availability, affordability, demand and supply.

Multimodal POs that are affordable, high-quality, and appropriately designed have the potential to achieve meaningful impact.

In addition to reducing mortality, multimodal POs could further optimize efficient use of resources and reduce the overall strain on health systems by minimizing the need for costly testing, strengthening referral decisions, and reducing unnecessary hospitalizations, intensive therapy, and overuse of antibiotic treatments.

In its work to address fever management and promote the adoption and scale-up of POs in primary health care, Unitaid has a portfolio of two complimentary grants for this purpose. Namely, Améliorer l’Identification des Détresses Respiratoire chez l’Enfant (AIRE) led by the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) and Tools for Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (TIMCI), led by PATH.

As part of the broader TIMCI project, PATH is currently initiating an evaluation and operational research study to assess performance and feasibility of using these tools by primary health care providers in Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uttar Pradesh, India.

Over the past four years, Unitaid and PATH have worked together to expand access to high-quality POs and clinical decision support algorithms to enable primary health care workers to better identify severely ill children and refer them for appropriate treatment without delay. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need for reliable access to such devices as part of sustainable and equitable oxygen delivery system even more to light.

[1] Sustainable Development Goal 3: Target 3.1, By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births. Target 3.2, By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under‑5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births.

Related projects and publications:

For more information:

Sarah Mascheroni


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Maggie Zander

Communications officer

M: +41 79 593 17 74


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