Interdesign Belgium 1985

Design for Basic Medical Equipment for Developing Countries, Louvain-La-Neuve (Belgium)

20 October – 2 November 1985

This Interdesign was inspired by the lack of basic medical care in rural areas in developing countries, and the fact that large, technologically advanced hospitals were of little help in urban slums or remote rural areas. Thirteen designers and four medical advisers from fourteen different countries, at the University of Louvain-La-Neuve in Belgium set out to develop ideas for basic medical equipment. It had been established that developing countries required indigenous materials, local manufacturing techniques, affordable cost, minimal maintenance, and easy service. Bearing these factors in mind, the designers drew proposals for three main areas:


Basic furniture for rural health centres: to provide designs and instructions for furniture which can be locally made, be easily adapted to different needs, and make full use of indigenous technology and resources.
The ‘cold chain’ (vaccine-preservation between manufacturing and use).
Data-collecting devices for field use: to develop appropriate devices which will provide accurate data essential for primary health care, require minimal amount of the field worker’s time and be easily adaptable to differing environments and cultures.


For the first topic, proposals ranged from creating an instruction kit for local craftsmen, a light operating table, steel and wooden furniture for rural health centres, the creation of a combined examination table and patient trolley. For vaccine preservation, the team improved existing equipment and devised new products and systems based on the need for visual detection of vaccine deterioration, the scarcity of reliable energy sources, and the unreliability of refrigeration machines, which store vaccines. And finally, for data-collecting devices for field use, the team devised local storage and transport methods using cold boxes.