Agent of Change: Ford Empowers Women and Saves Lives in Rural India through
New Technology, SUV Capabilities
CHENNAI, India, DELHI, India, and DEARBORN, Mich., March 7, 2013
CHENNAI, India, DELHI, India,and DEARBORN, Mich., March 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/
oFord worked with public and private organizations on a pilot program
designed to bring the right healthcare to the women and children living in
an inaccessible part of rural India
oSustainable Urban Mobility with Uncompromised Rural Reach, known as
SUMURR, enabled childbirth for 41 women with high-risk mothers
pregnancies, visited 54 villages, and reached more than 3,100 people to
facilitate community awareness programs focused on maternal and child
oOne key element of the SUMURR program was the Ford Endeavour, an SUV
designed to handle the rough terrain of the region and powered by some of
Ford's most advanced technologies, which extended the physical reach of
the healthcare services
oFord researchers are applying what was learned from SUMURR and the use of
OpenXC, an open-source technology, to create customized user experiences
and accelerate the creation of apps for mobile health
Henry Ford believed vehicles like his Model T would improve lives through
greater mobility. More than 100 years later on the other side of the world, a
young Indian mother named Mageswari connects that vision with the birth of her
healthy baby boy.
Mageswari, 19, lives in Kodamaathi, a tiny village in rural India where Ford
Motor Companyjust concluded a nine-month pilot program that entailed helping
pregnant women overcome geographical and technological barriers that prevented
them from receiving adequate healthcare.
Called Sustainable Urban Mobility with Uncompromised Rural Reach (SUMURR), the
program made use of a Ford Endeavour SUV that was designed to handle the most
difficult of terrains and traverse areas previously unreachable by
four-wheeled vehicles. After arriving in rural areas, health professionals
used laptops and cell phones to connect with doctors and medical help in ways
they never have before.
As a result, SUMURR made safe childbirth possible for 41 pregnant women; women
like Mageswari, who – with the help of the Ford Endeavour – was able to make
it to the hospital in just enough time to give birth.
"If not for Ford Endeavour, I might have tried to reach the hospital in a
two-wheeler," she says. "I do not know what might have happened."
The intervention area of Kalvarayan Hills has a higher infant and maternity
mortality rate compared with most other pockets of Tamil Nadu – a key
indicator of the need for prenatal care in the region.
Mageswari's situation illustrates the kind of need that was addressed by
SUMURR, and that's where Ford comes in, according to David Berdish, manager of
Berdish says Ford is acting as an agent of change for a better world by
forging innovative public-private partnerships with government, academic
institutions, nonprofit stakeholders and company resources to support positive
SUMURR represents the overall direction of such efforts. In fact, Berdish says
similar projects are already being considered for other regions around the
globe, including other parts of rural India, one in the state of Gujarat,
India – where Ford has a manufacturing plant – and also in China and Brazil.
"Ford Motor Company is not in the business of telemedicine, but between the
vehicle and the technology we provide, we can make it better," says Berdish.
Nine months of success
The pilot program began in June 2012 and concluded in February 2013. In
addition to facilitating safe childbirth for the women with high-risk
pregnancies, the program led to 27 temporary pediatric and gynecology camps
being set up in remote villages. Such visits enabled about 1,600 women and
children to receive much needed healthcare, including screenings for basic
illnesses and immunization coverage.
SUMURR reached another 3,100 people with its partners as the program traveled
to 54 villages to facilitate community awareness programs on maternal and
child health issues.
"Leveraging our strengths in building vehicles and in democratizing
technology, we have pioneered a unique effort to remove all hurdles to
mobility for these women and have made safe childbirths possible for them,"
said Joginder Singh, president and managing director, Ford of India. "SUMURR
truly embodies Ford's DNA of utilizing smart technologies for a better world."
Coordinating with Ford on SUMURR were:
oDepartment of Health (DPH) of the Government of Tamil Nadu: Provided
guidance and detailed statistics on maternal health and infant mortality;
posed a challenge to Ford to pilot the program in Kalvarayan Hills, a
region that is remote and hard to access
oU.S. Department of State: Provided guidance on program design and
emphasized the need and role of healthcare for women
oGeorge Washington University: Helped manage and track SUMURR
oIIT Madras Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI): A nonprofit
organization fostering entrepreneurship and focusing on technologies for
rural India; developed and customized the mobile health applications used
oReliance IIT Center of Excellence (RITCOE): Focuses on providing
excellence in the areas of telecom infrastructure and energy; RITCOE was
involved in developing solutions for SUMURR around OpenXC platform
oIndian Institute of Technology Madras: A premier academic institute that
provides world-class education and research facilities in engineering and
technology. It is officially recognized as an Institute of National
Importance by the government of India and provides guidance to RTBI and
oHand in Hand India: A nonprofit organization with an overall mission to
reduce poverty in India; Hand in Hand was the implementation partner
helping to take the initiative to the community including training the
government health workers with funding from Ford Motor Company Fund
oUniversity of Michigan: Helped determine the viability of SUMURR prior to
"SUMURR is an initiative to harness the potential of affordable technologies
with innovations that address local contexts for sustainable growth," says
Ashok Jhunjhunwala, founder and co-chairman, RTBI and a professor of
electrical engineering, IITM. "From voice-based local language interfaces to a
portable system architecture that covers significant aspects of women and
child healthcare, it is heartening to note that this program has not only
democratized technology but is also finding acceptance and adoption of the
technology with the rural mothers and healthcare personnel."
Berdish says SUMURR represents how Ford continues to evolve and take on more
responsibility when it comes to sustainable issues around the world.
Ford's Code of Human Rights, Basic Working Conditions and Corporate
Responsibility, for example, emphasizes the importance of providing proper
working conditions and overall human rights for Ford, its suppliers and the
communities in which it does business.
Ford continues to increase its presence in India, where it operates a vehicle
and engine manufacturing facility in Chennai, has invested $1 billion for its
second integrated manufacturing facility at Sanand, and is committed to
bringing the best of global products and services to the country. Ford also
plans to expand its sales and service operations to 500 locations across India
by mid-decade, with a focus and commitment to empower communities across its
existing and proposed facilities.
"Ford views accessibility to a better life as a fundamental human right, so
being able to successfully help women and children in parts of rural India
obtain healthcare is a perfect fit for what we're trying to do as a company
from an overall sustainable approach," says Berdish.
"SUMURR exemplifies the power of partnerships; through this effort, we are
leveraging the best of public and private sector resources to support enhanced
healthcare in areas that are hard to reach," says Gloria Cabe, senior advisor,
U.S. Department of State. "Collaborative efforts such as this are game
changers, helping to promote innovative solutions to enduring challenges."
Rural India today, Detroit tomorrow
K. Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader for Open Innovation at Ford,
framed the initial vision for SUMURR, working with Berdish, and oversaw its
Prasad is based at Ford's Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Mich.,
where many of the company's most talented researchers and scientists have
helped develop revolutionary technologies such as Ford SYNC^® and EcoBoost^®.
He says the mass-market applications of the kind of technology used in SUMURR
are another benefit of Ford's involvement.
For example, in some of the remote hilly villages where the Ford Endeavour was
used, cellular phone signals were extremely weak or nonexistent.
As a result, researchers are developing a way to use the recently launched
open-source platform OpenXC to create a local cloud housed in the Ford
Endeavour. This enables nurses in the village to record and store crucial
information about patients and transmit it when connectivity is available at a
later time. Another new app could help in the timely communication of vital
health parameters of the mother and enable hospital readiness while she is en
Prasad says that what Ford is learning about the technologies it developed for
SUMURR, especially their performance under extremely demanding environmental
conditions, is invaluable, and can potentially be applied to any Ford global
"SUMURR exemplifies how Ford is using its global reach to address regional
issues and causes around the world and at the same time identify local social
and technology entrepreneurs who we can partner with to further develop the
kind of solutions that will shape our future," says Prasad. "The fundamental
aspects of what we did in rural India could very much wind up in the driveways
A video about SUMURR can be viewed here.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company(NYSE: F), a global automotive industry leader based in
Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six
continents. With about 171,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, the
company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides
financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information
regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit
SOURCE Ford Motor Company
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