How Biometrics Can Improve Health Care in Developing Countries

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SEATTLE — Around the world, organizations establish initiatives and programs to combat poverty in many ways. Whether these initiatives involve education programs, food distribution or the dissemination of health resources, the primary goal is to help all those who need it. Many programs operate in isolated areas where people have do not have access to essential services like education, food aid, health resources and financial services due to geography and poverty. Anti-poverty programs work to get these essential services to the most in need but distributing the necessary aid to the correct person has proved difficult. In fact, over 1.1 billion people do not have any form of identification, which limits or even prevents access to essential services.

Having a legal form of identification makes information about an aid recipient easier to organize and access. A child with no form of legal identification is less likely to have accurate immunization records or any at all. A pregnant woman may receive the incorrect treatment because her medical record is difficult to locate or simply may not exist. Catching these recipients who fall through the cracks is the goal of the biotechnology NGO, Simprints.

Simprints

Simprints has developed technology that allows anti-poverty initiatives of all kinds to organize their recipients and ensure that they receive the aid they need. Instead of relying on antiquated paper filings, this technology allows workers and volunteers to access an individual’s information from a database using a fingerprint.

The company’s methodology has been developed for the most rugged locations and is not only four times cheaper than comparable services, but 228 times more accurate. Simprints is on the cutting edge of not just technology but using biometrics to fight poverty.

Simprints in Action: Improving Health Care in Developing Countires

The Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC) is one of the largest nongovernmental development organizations in the world and currently runs anti-poverty programs in 11 countries.

One of these programs is the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health program, which started in 2005 in Bangladesh’s capital Dakha. The program’s aim is to “[provide]basic primary healthcare at the community level” and “[address]issues of pregnancy, newborn and child health, and [facilitate]access to obstetric and newborn care at public and private facilities” by training community members (almost entirely women) to administer basic treatment of common conditions and detect symptoms of more serious ones.

The program is credited with making a substantial contribution to Bangladesh’s progress in reducing its under-5 mortality rate and strengthening the national tuberculosis control program.

The volunteers, called Shasthya Kormis, deliver health services to almost seven million people who would otherwise go without. Using Simprints’ scanners, Shashthya Kormis are able to keep track of the antenatal and postnatal care visits a mother receives. A study funded by the USAID, DFID and Gates Foundation found that maternal health care coverage increased by 38 percent among groups in areas using Simprints’ devices and technology, showing that using biometrics to fight poverty is a viable option in the future.

Other places in the world are using this solution in a similar manner. For example, in the Ugandan village of Rwibaale, Watsi, a nonprofit crowdsourcing platform is using Simprints to enroll villagers into a low-cost health care program. So far, Watsi has enrolled 6,000 individuals and over 7,000 clinic visits have occurred using this technology. Thanks to Simprints and Watsi, Rwibaale is experiencing a 98.2 percent health care enrollment rate in a country where rural areas have one doctor for every 22,000 people.

Conclusion

Simprints has expanded greatly since its inception in 2014 and its products can be found around the world. The company itself does not carry out any anti-poverty programs of its own, so Simprints will likely be wherever its partners are in the future. Currently, Simprints is refining its software to integrate with more anti-poverty platforms. The services and technologies created by Simprints has made the company a vital partner for many groups fighting poverty today and will bolster the efforts of groups by using biometrics to fight poverty.

– Nick Sharek
Photo: Flickr

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