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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Guiding Sustainable Medical Device Design for Low-Resource Settings: A Study on Covid-19 Respiratory Support Devices

The Covid-19 pandemic has made evident the global inequalities in access to healthcare devices. The numbers of infected people needing assisted ventilation treatments keep rising, as is the concern that not all of them can access a respiratory-support device, especially in Low-Resource Settings (LRSs), whose healthcare systems suffer from less equipment, healthcare workers and other essential resources like electricity or oxygen. Volunteers worldwide have offered their help to respond to the urgent demand for respiratory-support devices in LRSs, but remote design of medical devices for LRSs is a challenging task, and devices emerging from these processes often have poor social/environmental sustainability performance. This leads to the question: ‘How can we guide the design of emergency medical devices for LRSs towards more sustainable outcomes?’ 

Sustainable medical device design in the context of a health emergency is an unexplored area of research. This work examines literature and case studies of contemporary design responses to the Covid-19 emergency, design for LRSs, design for emergencies and design for sustainability, all from the perspective of medical device design.   

Insights from these activities are used to develop SHER: the Sustainable Health Emergency Response Framework. This framework aims to provide guidance for those remote designers who want to develop a sustainable and effective medical device for emergencies in LRSs. It guides designers through the conception of a remote design project to the end of the concept development stage, providing facilitating sets of checklist which help with remote collaboration, evaluating the viability and feasibility of the project, identifying the holistic constraints on the product, integrating social and environmental sustainability strategies, taking into account the safety and usability characteristics of the device, and conducting User-Centred Research.   

These contents are translated to designers via an interactive, easy-to-understand tool which aims to facilitate decision-making. The contents are divided into three steps, composed of checklists. Each checklist provides questions to guide remote designers from the very conception of the project until the end of the ideation stage of the product development process. 


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.