NEW YORK CITY – Baby Monitor is being developed by the global nonprofits Population Council and InSTEDD, and the mobile application is designed to help mothers in extremely poor areas of the world who often have children without proper medical assistance or experienced help. Many of these mothers and children suffer preventable illnesses or die because they lack immediate access to a system of community health workers. Population Council and InSTEDD are working to fix this problem by capitalizing on a system that these mothers and newborns do have access to: a mobile network.
Cellular network availability is expanding much more rapidly than the number of health aid workers, mainly because it requires less time, finances, and energy to set up a cell tower than it does to train, equip and deploy a group of healthcare professionals and volunteers.
The Baby Monitor mobile application makes the most of these expanding cell networks by allowing mothers to obtain clinical screening on a mobile device during the crucial time immediately before and after birth. Interactive voice technology allows the app to determine if the mother is having complications by assessing her responses to screening questions given in the mother’s native language. Women using the app can key in their answers, which will prompt Baby Monitor to provide information, referrals to health workers, or send dispatch assistance if needed.
Baby Monitor may revolutionize the way people in poor nations access healthcare because many of them have never used mobile screening apps or digitized medical records. This project could also save the lives of mothers and newborns by improving their ability to receive appropriate clinical assessments and healthcare at critical times. At least two-thirds of newborn deaths can be prevented by providing mothers with preventative care before and immediately after birth. The Population Council also cites that with access to preventative care by a skilled attendant, maternal deaths are drastically reduced. Baby Monitor connects women in developing countries to a screening process to make preventative care more accessible, and it makes the process simple by relaying on interactive voice technology, not text, to asses the mother’s condition. The limited number of community health workers in poor countries will also be more effectively utilized by dispatching them as needed.
Baby Monitor is currently in a two-year research and testing phase in Kenya and Nairobi to see if the app is feasible, reliable, and accurate. This innovative approach to helping women and children around the world achieve access to better healthcare is the result of support from USAID, Grand Challenges Canada, the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and the government of Norway.
– Georganne Hassell
Sources: Population Council, InSTEDD, Duke Global Health, Dr. Eric Green
Photo: Clinton Foundation