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Project Case Study: Gender Analysis of the Project “Commercialization of a Locally Developed Human Breast Milk Pasteurizer”

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photo credit to opb.org

photo credit to opb.org

I.    Project Background

1.    Rationale

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is implementing a Technology Innovation for Commercialization (TECHNICOM) Program designed as a technology-transfer program. The program aims to fast track the commercialization of research and development (R&D) breakthroughs with excellent market potentials. It provides funds to carry out any of the following technology-transfer support activities: commercial prototype development; business plan/feasibility study preparation; intellectual property rights protection; technology valuation, negotiation and licensing; and semi-commercial production.

TECHNICOM has provided funding support for the preparation of a technology commercialization/business plan for the Tabletop Breast Milk Pasteurizer (TTBMP) developed by the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), a research and development (R&D) institute of DOST. ASTI is spearheading projects in the areas of information and communications technology as well as microelectronics. The plan consisted of three components, namely: 1) the market feasibility study; 2) the business plan; and 3) the technology commercialization plan (TCP).

The development of the pasteurizer was initiated based on the concept and information on breast milk feeding provided by Dr. Gloria Ramirez of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC). The first design of the pasteurizer was released in the late 1990s and continuous improvement and modification resulted in various models, the latest of which is the Prototype IV, the tabletop version, addressing the issues on connectivity, portability, robustness and economy. ASTI made a breakthrough in coming up with an alternative cost-effective solution for the design of Pasteurizer IV, which has the following features:

  • Uses a commercially available rice cooker as the heating vessel (Imarflex)
  • Accommodates seven milk bottles
  • Design well suited for the pasteurization process
  • Controller’s circuit board in an aluminum housing designed to fit snugly at the side

2.    Activities Conducted in Developing the Project 

  • Product and manufacturing process familiarization
  • Survey of Existing Milk feeding practices for infants from hospitals and young mothers
  • Consumers’ perceptions and preferences
  • Competitiveness, Technical and Process Analysis
  • Characterizing Market Behavior and Establishment of Market Size
  • Technology Commercialization Plan
  • Evaluation of the Table Top Breast Milk Pasteurizer 

3.    Project Goals 

  • DOST implementation of a Technology Innovation for Commercialization (TECHNICOM) Project
  • Fast track the commercialization of R&D breakthroughs with excellent market potentials
  • ASTI spearheads projects 

4.    Project Objective 

  • To develop a prototype for mass production of a low-cost breast milk pasteurizer which operates at low volume

5.    Project Organization Structure 

The ASTI team assigned to the TTBMP Project was composed of three males and one female. The project leader is an ASTI engineer (male) who worked with the TECHNICOM coordinator (female) and two project members (both male). There was no gender indicated for the study team. The source for the concept and information on breast milk is Dr. Gloria Ramirez (female). 

The following studies were conducted through FGDs in order to determine market feasibility:

  • Product Rating
  • Product Name Preference
  • Willingness to Buy Breast Milk Pasteurizer
  • Willingness to Donate Breast Milk
  • Reasons for Desire to Donate Breast Milk
  • Willingness to Buy Pasteurized Breast Milk
  • Reasons for Buying Pasteurized Breast Milk
  • Overall Need for Other Uses of the Breast Milk Pasteurizer
  • Overall Income Brackets

II.    Gender Analysis of the Project

ASTI’s development and applied innovations on the DOST-TECHNICOM project on the Tabletop Breast Milk Pasteurizer, resulting in the Prototype IV, is yet another testament to the creativity and ingenuity of the Filipino, accustomed to the scarcity and, more often, the unavailability of resources and materials along with the unspoken but mandatory search for ways to decrease costs involved.

However, the women’s involvement in the project is kept to a minimum. The project team is composed solely of males, with only a female as a coordinator and with minimal decision-making powers. Given the male pool, their scientific orientation, and their concentration on the technological product, they did not investigate the area concerning the gathering of breast milk, evidence of the invisibility of women’s needs and concerns in a project like this where the woman will be the source of the breast milk upon which the sale of the technological product depends.

As stated in ASTI’s evaluation, there is no immediate competition for the product within the country or the world where the use of a rice cooker well suited to the pasteurization process is concerned. Due to the adjustments and innovations introduced by ASTI to the TTBMP, the technological product can be made available to our hospitals and the general public for as low as 10% of the cost of breast milk pasteurizers manufactured here and abroad. As of this writing, the only hospital using pasteurized breast milk for infants in their neonatal care is the PCMC.

In carrying out a gender analysis of the project, the group used Sarah Longwe’s Women’s Development Criteria to identify project issues that fall under and/or address the five (5) levels of equality, namely: welfare, access, conscientisation, participation, and control.

Welfare

The sole focus of the project is the TTBMP, as is natural coming from a scientific perspective. However, there had been mention of the eventual large-scale marketing and sale of not only the technological product but also of pasteurized human breast milk. This is a revolutionary idea due to the fact that most available human breast milk may be sourced from breast milk banks where the breast milk is frozen which, though fit for consumption from six to twelve months from the date the milk had been expressed, has been found to also preserve bacteria, whereas pasteurized breast milk kills off all bacteria.

The implications of such availability cannot be discounted. More than fifty percent of the work force is comprised of women, a significant number of whom are mothers whose absence for the most part of the working day has compelled them to use breast milk substitutes. Given the scientific proof backing the statement “breast milk is still best for babies,” such availability will be in the best interest of children but will also inevitably be viewed by multinational corporations providing breast milk as conflicting with their interests.

Access

In determining consumer attitudes and perceptions as part of the market feasibility study, the study team conducted Focused Group Discussions (FGDs) whose topics ranged from willingness to buy the TTBMP as well as pasteurized breast milk to product rating and product name preferences. Through the studies the project team had been able to determine the following: there is a market for both products; there is a great need for the dissemination of information on breast milk; and the eventual launch of the TTBMP would benefit from such an information campaign.

Conscientisation

The gathering of human breast milk for pasteurization towards public consumption presents a unique situation akin to that of sperm and egg donation or selling: the involvement of a human source for the raw materials of the product. The process of gathering the breast milk poses the following concerns, which would have been ideally included in FGDs with participants who are willing to donate or sell breast milk: ways of expressing milk; materials and equipment involved in the expression of milk; quality of equipment involved (breast pumps); hygiene in the procedure; amount of milk per day; number of times of milk expression per day; personal hygiene health care; discomfort and pain involved in the expression of milk (which will translate into an occupational safety hazard or OSH); compensation for the expression of milk (considering both the expressed milk and the process); perceived rights of the milk donors or sellers; and perceived liabilities for the milk donors or sellers that may arise from problems involving the quality of milk and / or the hygiene in the process of expressing.  These FGDs could also have covered details regarding the gathering of breast milk for the business of the pasteurized breast milk sale, such as: the place of expression of milk; the methods of expressing (hand? Hand pump? Machine?); hygiene control; controlled environment; handling; and the like.

The TTBMP inventors and product developers had envisioned the biological mothers to be the ideal source of the babies consuming the pasteurized breast milk; but they had also considered that this would not always be the case as with hospitals where infants in neonatal care may receive and consume pasteurized breast milk donated by other mothers. Thus comes the question which many may view as self-evident but also merits proper scientific investigation given that it can be considered a legitimate concern: can breast milk from different mothers be mixed? Pasteurization is a process that kills all bacteria and allows for a longer shelf life for the breast milk; it does not cover nor control the quality of the breast milk expressed from different mothers.

Recent studies on breast milk quality have also discovered reason for concern with regard to not only hygienic practices but also exposure to environmental pollutants that our world is saturated with. These chemicals can, for instance, ride on air currents or attach themselves to sediment particles and ride ocean currents – only two examples of the many ways that people, whether at the site of the environmental hazard or residing hundreds or even thousands of miles away can be affected by such pollutants. Naturally these chemicals find their way into the human body, and breast milk expressed from mothers living in different places with difficult environmental concerns have tested positive for contaminants that will be harmful to babies (lead and mercury for instance).

Participation

Given the goal of the study team, which were mainly to determine the perception and possibility of a positive reception of the TTBMP, the FGDs focused on the information needed for market feasibility; however, these did not delve into the needs and issues that women may face in the process of expressing breast milk and in the gathering of breast milk for the availability of the pasteurized breast milk product. Clearly there was an assumption that there would be no concerns in this area.

An FGD with participants who are mothers would have also been instrumental in shedding light to other concerns that would inevitably affect the marketing and sale of the TTBMP. The concerns that could have been covered in these discussions are: reasons for considering buying someone else’s breast milk for their babies’ consumption; reasons for not purchasing / possible apprehensions in feeding their babies’ someone else’s breast milk; comments on issues such as the general health, diet, hygiene, environment, vices, and specific possibly unidentified diseases of the milk donor/seller and their effects on the quality of the breast milk; perceptions regarding breast milk sourced from donors/sellers of different economic or social classes.

Control

FGDs conducted by the study team could have been maximized given the choice of questions and the deeper analysis required in the exchange. If the women had also been tasked with envisioning and planning the gathering as if they were solely in charge of the project, the study team would have been able to gain insight on all the women’s needs and issues raised in the possible sale of pasteurized human breast milk.

III.    Project Logical Framework

The project did not have a logical framework prepared, so the group attempted to do a logframe taking into consideration the findings of our gender analysis of the project. Table 9 shows the proposed project logframe.

Table 9. Project Logical Framework (Proposed)

Objective Hierarchy

Performance Indicators

Monitoring Mechanisms

Assumptions

(verifiable indicators of objective attainment)

(means of verification)

(key success factors)

Goal
To contribute to the overall infant and maternal healthcare by promoting the health benefits of breast milk to babies and mothers Increased number of children’s hospitals that provide breast milk to their neonatal unit by 30% DOH comparative data on number of children’s hospital providing breast milk in their neonatal units Maternal and infant mortality rate as stated in the Millenium Development Goals is addressed
Increased access of mothers and their babies to breast milk in atleast 20 of the poorest barangays throughout the country Barangay health center statistics on mothers and baby availing of breast milk in the center
Purpose/Objective
To develop a prototype for mass production of a low-cost breast milk pasteurizer which operates at low volume At least five (5) children’s hospitals are using the prototype for pilot evaluation ASTI Accomplishment Report A local manufacturing firm that is capable of mass producing the prototype
Willingness of the identified hospitals to be pilot sites for the prototype
Output
Prototype of a table top breastmilk pasteurizer Contains the necessary peripherals in the vessel Finished product of the prototype containing a microcontroller and heat sensor The 4th version of the breastmilk pasteurizer improves on the structural design and features of the previous models
Able to remove harmful bacteria while preserving the breast milk’s useful qualities Lab results of the composition of non-pasteurized and pasteurized breast milk
Output Prototype of a table top breast milk pasteurizer

Activities

Key Inputs

Milestone Indicators

Assumptions

Pre-product development study Survey and needs assessment of potential buyers of product (hospitals and individuals) Survey and needs assessment results There is a viable target market for the product
Survey and needs assessment of potential mother-donors of breastmilk Survey and needs assessment results The product is gender sensitive and takes into consideration the needs and concerns of potential mother-donors
Product development Product developer/s (project staff) Project organizational structure Resources and other requirements for product development is set-up
Product detailed design Blueprint of structural and circuit design
Product proponent MOA between and/or among DOST, ASTI, PCMH, and other pilot hospitals
Budget Approved line-item-budget
Product evaluation Participating pilot hospitals Evaluation Report on pilot run Holistic and participatory method in evaluating the initial impact of the product
Target beneficiaries (especially mothers)
Other stakeholders of the project

breast milk pasteurizing affords more infants more access to mother's milk

breast milk pasteurizing affords more infants more access to mother’s milk

IV.    Recommendations

What we view as a major merit of ASTI’s development of the TTBMP, apart from making available the technology for pasteurizing breast milk in a hospital, work, and home environment, is also the spurring of additional research both in scientific measure and in the area of women’s needs and issues. The TTBMP may very well be a vessel for active consciousness-raising and has great potential for social contribution and impact. Below are the group’s recommendations of the TTBMP project given our findings and analysis:

1.    Women’s Development Criteria

  • Welfare
    • Emphasize quality of care, which covers privacy and confidentiality rights, a safe and comfortable environment for milk gathering, health testing and the like.
  • Access
    • Emphasize the contribution of ASTI and the TTBMP to the MDG goals (MDG 1: Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, and MDG 4: Reduce infant mortality rate). The TTBMP may be installed in every hospital and be used to preserve breast milk for babies at risk.
    • Market for both product salability and creation of consciousness among potential donors and buyers. IEC activities and campaigns must reach the grassroots so they can fully utilize the technology.
  • Conscientisation
    • Increase awareness in gender-related concerns
    • Rework project objectives, guidelines and structures to become gender-responsive and ready for application within and outside of the program and project framework.

The project already has a terminal report as the TTBMP has already been evaluated as adequate and well suited to perform pasteurization. Given the scientific nature of the project, all the objectives relating to the technology had been achieved. However, the project team had indicated possible partnerships with other government agencies such as the DOH in attaining other goals such as conducting the information campaign.  By reworking their project objectives, guidelines, and structures into gender-responsive ones, the project team can still cover other goals, and determine new areas of study and investigation that look into women’s needs and issues regarding milk gathering and other areas that relate to and will translate into the acceptance and salability of the TTBMP.

  • Participation
    • Conduct large(r) scale studies on the gathering of human breast milk, investigating both scientific and women perspectives and considerations
    • Conduct large(r) scale studies on the levels of quality of human breast milk and the screening and qualifications of milk donors/sellers
    • Consider women’s needs in the design of the product. This may cover the development or inclusion of a readily available machine breast pump.
    • Emphasize and encourage male/partner participation.
  • Control
    • Concept of a human source gives us an insight into the way we treat other beings and our environment (inclusion in consciousness-raising).
    • The project must become a collaboration, taking into consideration the participation of women in all aspects of the program and project, rather than just voiceless objects.

2.    Policy Recommendation

  • Form partnerships and strategic alliances with other bodies that can collaborate or conduct independently additional studies or areas of investigation (government agencies and private corporations if possible)

An example of this is the government’s identification of the country’s poorest provinces and creation of policy to install the TTBMP in every hospital as well as other mechanisms for full implementation.

Another example is the CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility. ASTI developers may require corporations licensing the product to donate to the poorest provinces’ hospitals and care centers.

3.    Further Research

  • Conduct additional and continuing research on breast milk and its possibilities as a product

4.    Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) Campaigns

  • Studies must also investigate acceptability across culture while promoting scientific merits. If the project had transgressed any cultural or religious practices or beliefs, the marketing should be carefully examined so as not to tarnish the aim of the project while respecting the merit of the culture or religion.
  • Organize and conduct an information campaign aimed at enlightening and changing attitudes and perceptions regarding feeding one’s baby someone else’s breast milk (including the positive effects on awareness, health, and budget). The information campaign should also extend into the internet with readily available and free information that would have an impact not only on mothers but also on single women.

5.    Impact Evaluation

  • Evaluate impact to verify the achievement of the project in terms of numbers of babies served: (a) with mothers who lack breast milk; (b) with mothers preferring breast milk for their babies but do not or cannot breastfeed; and (c) without mothers
  • Conduct documentation of best practices and hindering factors in product evaluation so as to identify the best features of the product as well as how it can be improved.
“Organizational Gender Analysis of the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) and the Gender Analysis of the Project ‘Commercialization of a Locally Developed Human Breast Milk Pasteurizer’” written by Jeng Tetangco, Cindy Cruz-Cabrera and Queen Olivar | March 2007

Next: References

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Author: cindycatz: occasional pianist and coffee shop philosopher

fond of the sun, sky, sea, sand and starfish; passionate about literacy, education, media, feminisms, development, popular culture, counterculture, migration phenomenon, anthropology and the fourth world; fascinated with crochet, sushi-making, fiction, creative non-fiction, storytelling, some films and series | books and comics | anime and manga | music and videos | bands and groupies, Latin and Italian, mom-and-pop consumerism, tavern bards and cafe philosophers, trinkets and bric-a-bracs, and steampunk and lolita couture; and absolutely enamored with nail polish and bag charms, frappucinos and margaritas, conversations and moments, her 41 year-old piano, and - of course - CATS. credentials? visit about.me/cindycruzcabrera & ph.linkedin.com/in/cindycruzcabrera/

3 thoughts on “Project Case Study: Gender Analysis of the Project “Commercialization of a Locally Developed Human Breast Milk Pasteurizer”

  1. Pingback: Part I: Organizational Gender Analysis of ASTI | Papers, Pursuits and Purrsuasions

  2. Pingback: Organizational Gender Analysis and Project Case Study: Table of Contents | Papers, Pursuits and Purrsuasions

  3. Pingback: Organizational Gender Analysis and Project Case Study: Abstract and Blog Post List | Papers, Pursuits and Purrsuasions

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