Monday, September 8, 2014

Tanzania Innovators win Canadian Cash

By Esther Nakkazi

Tanzania has won three of the 13 innovators grants from Grand Challenges Canada. Among the innovations are an application linking traditional healers to medical health workers through the mobile phone to recognise psychosis, using a smart phone to rapidly measure kidney failure in any setting for less than $1 and using electronically-monitored referral system to speed diagnosis and reduce transmission of tuberculosis.

In six rounds of funding since 2011, Grand Challenges Canada's Stars in Global Health program has provided $43 million in seed grants to 392 projects.

"The difference between a human life burdened by serious health challenges and a life lived to its full and healthy potential may be a bold idea developed by an innovator in Canada or abroad,” said Dr. Peter A. Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada:

"Through our Stars in Global Health program, we are proud to identify these exceptional global health innovations that aim to have a far-reaching and positive impact on the well-being of individuals and communities in developing nations.” The Tanzanian innovations are;

The Cell phones and psychosis: a pilot study connecting traditional healers and bio-medical staff in rural Tanzania to be implemented by Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania

Due to cultural beliefs and lack of rural medical services, over 60% of Tanzanians seek mental care from widely accessible traditional healers who tend to treat the spiritual causes of psychosis - an easily recognizable and prevalent condition. Without integrated systems of care, biological symptoms of psychosis may go untreated and reach chronic stages, leading to severe, long-term disability.

A mobile psychosis screening and consultation app for both traditional healers and medical practitioners will harness the power of the nation's ubiquitous mobile devices to bridge treatment of psychosis between Tanzania's rural traditional healers and urban medical practitioners -- improving diagnosis and management, increasing referrals and reducing stigma. Website:

The Tanzania acute kidney injury project: to be implemented by Pamoja Research Centre, Tanzania. Acute kidney injury (AKI) is caused by other conditions such as malaria, HIV-related infection, diarrheal disease or pregnancy-related complications. It is a neglected global health issue and a significant cause of illness and death in low-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where access to early diagnosis and timely access to therapy are lacking.

This project will develop and test a system that uses a smartphone biosensor and two drops of blood to rapidly measure kidney failure in any setting for less than $1. Website:

Using pharmacists and an electronically-monitored referral system to speed diagnosis and reduce transmission of tuberculosis; to be implemented by Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania

Tuberculosis (TB) is rampant in Tanzania and the detection rate is low (50%). People who potentially have TB tend to go to pharmacies to purchase antibiotics before getting a proper diagnosis. A training and referral system from pharmacies to facility-based diagnostic/treatment centres will increase early detection rates and reduce transmission by shortening the diagnosis delay. Website:

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