For a parent to lose a child is unimaginably painful. And when that death comes in the first few months, and is unexplained, the loss can be even more devastating.
In the US, six out of every 1,000 children die before their first birthday. Of these, around one in six die of unexpected causes – something known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
It happens seemingly out of the blue, with no obvious symptoms or cause. The majority of SIDS deaths (90%) occur within the first six months of life, and usually while the child is sleeping.
Until recently, little progress had been made in discovering the reasons behind SIDS and how to prevent it, but digital technology could help to find a solution.
Towards a breakthrough
For the past two years, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has been working in partnership with Microsoft, the Aaron Matthew SIDS Research Guild of Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the American SIDS Institute to help raise funds for SIDS and further research.
Gajanan Phadake, Global Segment Head at TCS, says the company was inspired by the work of John Kahan, Chief Data Analytics Officer at Microsoft and President of the Aaron Matthew SIDS Research Guild.
“John and his wife lost their son Aaron Matthew, to SIDS 15 years ago, and since then over 60,000 children have died in the US alone of unexpected and unexplained causes of which SIDS is the main cause of death.” Phadake says.
Kahan joined forces with researchers at the Seattle Children’s Hospital to apply Microsoft technology to SIDS data and work out the causes of SIDS. Microsoft has designed a new data tool that could crunch existing information on parents and babies, going back decades, and identify patterns.
To speed up and augment the research, TCS volunteered 5,000 hours of technical and scientific research to the hospital.
This initially involved setting up fundraising platforms – but now TCS also contributes to the data science effort, which is looking at DNA among other things.
“We are hopeful that the answers that have evaded researchers for years can begin to be deduced. Indeed, the work has already inspired us to investigate new lines of inquiry on the condition,” says Phadake.
Keeping up the good work
However, this exciting area of research requires constant funds – and this is something else TCS has been helping with.
A portion of the pro-bono hours committed by TCS has already been used for building digital fundraising platforms. First Steps for SIDS raises awareness as well as money and was built by TCS in partnership with Microsoft, the Aaron Matthew SIDS Research Guild, and the American SIDS Institute.
By celebrating one of the first major milestones in a child’s life – their first steps – the site hopes to draw attention to the fact that thousands of parents never get to enjoy that first milestone. Parents upload videos of their child’s first steps to the site, which are then voted on by others – through making a donation. More than 19,000 people have taken part.
The second platform built by TCS is GiveToStopSIDS.org, which is an informational website about the Aaron Matthew SIDS Research Guild. It includes a PayPal donation button that can be used to directly donate money to the cause.
“At TCS we firmly believe in leveraging technology to provide solutions to social causes and we are excited to work with Microsoft and Seattle Children’s Hospital to bring together our diverse skills to help solve SIDS,” says Nagaraj Ijari, VP and Global Head, HiTech Unit at TCS, adding that:
“I am hopeful that the power of digital technologies, particularly analytics and cloud computing, will help researchers get closer to the answers they have been seeking for so long, and to save precious little lives, supporting Mr Kahan’s mission to make sure no parent ever experiences the loss of a child again.”