Innovation is (almost) as important to us as our clients. To show our appreciation for amazing innovators, we like to showcase those who inspire us to think outside the box and keep aiming higher. This edition: cheap artificial limbs from the Indian city of Jaipur.
Who are they?
Our innovators this week have a history stretching back over 40 years and include to set trends today. After a car accident that nearly resulted in his leg being amputated, Devendra Ray Mehta left behind his career as a bank regulator to help the people in India who couldn’t afford the necessary care.
Ram Chander Sharma started producing the Jaipur Foot in 1968 with assistance from Dr. P.K. Sethi. These artificial limbs were then fitted for patients free of charge by Mehta since 1975 through his company Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS).
In addition, Dr. Pooja Mukul is working with MIT and Stanford to develop the Jaipur Knee to help those who have had their legs amputated above the knee.
Jaipur Foot and Jaipur Knee
So what makes these artificial limbs so special? The answer: cost of manufacturing. State of the art prosthetics made in the United States or other developed countries will generally run upwards of about $8000-$12000. The Jaipur Foot on the other hand costs only $50 to make. Instead of metals and carbon fibre, these limbs are made from PVC piping and other inexpensive and readily available materials. PVC is widely used for farm irrigation in India, so it is in plentiful supply. Plus the free installation makes it a highly affordable option for more impoverished amputees.
While the Jaipur Foot has been helping to make lower leg amputees whole again throughout the developing world, Dr. Mukul and her team (in conjunction with Stanford and MIT) have been focused on helping above knee amputees as well. The Jaipur Knee is named in honour of its older cousin and only costs $20 to make. Based off of advanced titanium models from the US, the Jaipur Knee has all of the functionality without the several thousand-dollar price tag. Though the limb has not yet entered general distribution, it has been fitted on 43 people in India so far and should be widely available later this year.
What it all means
Both the Jaipur Foot, Jaipur Knee, and other products made by the company are designed for developing countries. For many, amputation means a complete disruption of their daily life. What these limbs are doing is offering an affordable way to regain the independence and way of life lost by amputees.
It’s not just all function either. Part of the appeal of prosthetic limbs is to regain social status – especially in India. Disabilities are not just viewed as bad luck, but more of a stigma or an example of bad karma. This means amputees want to find ways to avoid the negative stigma and blend in. The Jaipur Knee even recently underwent improvements to stop the joint from clicking. Users didn’t want to have sound announcing their arrival wherever they went. The makers of the knee were able to fine-tune their product to make this cosmetic change by simply adding a bumper.
Though the Jaipur Foot has been around for decades, it has been growing in popularity every year. Each year between 23000 and 25000 amputees are fitted with the artificial leg. With the Jaipur Knee on the horizon, amputees in India and other parts of the developing world will have easier access to affordable artificial limbs that they might otherwise not be able to get.
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