INDEX: Design to Improve Life


A designer’s scarring brush with the trauma of infection leads her to put a lid on one of the most common dangers of triage scenarios: Her YellowOne Needle Cap design turns an empty soft drink can into a safe depository for dirty needles.


A surprising number of disease transmissions can be caused by “needle-stick” injuries. When a used syringe needle punctures the skin the result can be infections with HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, among other problems, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

And the numbers are scaring: Contaminated needles results in 260,000 HIV infections, 21 million Hepatitis B infections and 2 million Hepatitis C infections worldwide every year and it is estimated that 50 % of injections administered in developing countries are unsafe, because needles are reused or even resold why safe containers for storage of used needles are in desperate demand.

Danish designer Hân Pham learned it the hard way.

Vietnamese by background, she fled Hanoi’s rule in the 1980s with her father and brother via a raft. Rescued at sea and taken to a UN refugee camp in Singapore, Hân Pham had the misfortune to run afoul of a dirty vaccination needle.

The resulting bacterial infection let to a weeks-long struggle to regain her health and a determination, as she trained in design at Designskolen Kolding, to do something about needle-stick injuries.

As part of her graduate-school project, she developed the YellowOne Needle Cap design, which won her the 2007 INDEX: People’s Choice Award.

Working with Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) to test her concept, Hân ended up with a yellow cap molded of heavy plastic and made to fit securely on an average drink can. The cap then accepts discarded needles – up to 150 or so, depending on the size of the can – without letting them come back out and hurt anyone.

Interviewed by BusinessWeek magazine, Hân Pham made it clear that she fully aligns herself with the goals of the INDEX: organization: “Designers don’t always see it,” she said, “but we have a responsibility to work for good, to do the right thing.”



2007 Winner




“Needle-stick” injuries with used syringes


Hân Pham, a designer based in Aarhus, Denmark. Her Antivirus design also has won a Jubilee Grant from the National Bank of Denmark. 


 Written by Porter Anderson

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