Monday, August 28, 2017

Innovation to improve Kangaroo mother care wins young innovators competition

Team Kangaroo+ at the 5th Medtech CAMTech hack-a-thon 

By Esther Nakkazi

Madina Nalubega is a graduate of nursing at Mbarara University for Science and Technology (MUST). She is waiting to go for internship. 

Nalubega was one of the 250 young innovators who attended the 5th Annual CAMTech UGANDA Medtech Hack-a-thon that happened over the weekend. She was in the Kangaroo+ team, one of the 30 that presented prototypes to a panel of judges. 

Kangaroo+ team won the 'innovating to improve neonatal and maternal health' at the  CAMTech UGANDA Medtech Hack-a-thon and they received $782 USD or Uganda shillings 2,500,800 and six months of acceleration support as the grand prize winners.

"Their affordable medical technology, Kangaroo+, modifies traditional kangaroo care by combining a thermometer and skin-to-skin contact," the judges that included Richard Zulu the founder of Outbox, innovation hub.

"We came up with this innovation because at the current situation babies are born prematurely and they use Kangaroo care," said Nalubega at the hack-a-thon at Mbarara University. The device will cost up to $10 on the market.

Kangaroo care is a method of holding a baby that involves skin-to-skin contact. The baby, who is naked except for a diaper and a piece of cloth covering his or her back (either a receiving blanket or the parent's clothing), is placed in an upright position against a parent's bare chest. 

In Uganda, of the about 1.5 million children born annually, 90 percent of the more than 200,000 are pre-term babies born before 37 weeks of being in the womb and die before their first birthday. Ideally, babies should spend 40 weeks in the womb.  

So Nalubega's team came up with a jacket that can be used instead of a blanket or a clothing. The jacket has straps that go to the back and the baby is held at the chest of the parent. But they also added a colour coded monitory tool that can show the temperature of the baby.

"When the temperature is high the tool shows a green color and the mother can remove the baby when the baby gets cold and is not on its parents chest the monitor shows a red colour," said Nalubega.

CAMTech UGANDA awarded the 2017 hack-a-thon winners over $2,000 USD (6,702,400 UGX) in prize money. Other winners were Team Safe and Dry as First Runner-Up, Team MBT as Second Runner-Up and Team 54 as Third Runner-Up. 

Team Safe and Dry received $625 USD (2,000,000 UGX) for innovating a fistula collection tool, Team MBT received $469 USD (1,500,800 UGX) for a device treating menstrual cramps and Team 54 received $219 USD (700,800 UGX) for a low-cost infant warmer.

In addition to receiving prize money, CAMTech UGANDA offered the winning teams access to webinars and peer-to-peer learning engagements. Each winning team will also compete in a 90-day post-hack opportunity for membership in the CAMTech Accelerator Program (CAP)

An initiative on the CAMTech Innovation Platform, the CAP provides milestone-based funding, a CAP Coach, participation in the CAP Cohort, expert match-making and six-months of acceleration support.

More than 250 clinicians, engineers, entrepreneurs, students, and designers convened at MUST for 48 hours to develop innovative medical technologies to improve neonatal and maternal health in low-resource settings.

Participants identified clinical challenges related to newborn and maternal health, formed multi-disciplinary teams, prototyped solutions and developed business models before presenting their ideas to an expert panel of judges.

“We heard from all aspects of the community,” said Dr. Kristian Olson, Director of CAMTech. “We’ve heard problems that were really rooted in culture and in economics, and yes in technical difficulties for certain things, but also in scaling and in communication.”

Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, Uganda’s Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovations, and Dr. Frank Tumwebaze, Uganda’s Minister for Information Communication Technology, addressed innovators during the hack-a-thon to represent the Government of Uganda’s commitment to innovating affordable medical technologies.

“The Ministry and the government are interested in supporting you, and we are here for you,” Dr. Tumwesigye said. “In the coming years, we shall see the prototypes from the hack-a-thon being funded in the country.”

Prior to the hack-a-thon on 26-27 August, CAMTech UGANDA hosted a Clinical Summit on 25 August, featuring panel discussions focused on pediatric and neonatal health, nursing, midwifery, obstetrics, and gynaecology.

“It’s the time where we get to know and hear in better detail what problems are there affecting the frontline health workers who are battling to save lives on a day-to-day basis,” said Dr. Data Santorino, CAMTech UGANDA Country Manager.

Additionally, CAMTech UGANDA organized visits to Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, Ishaka Adventist Hospital, Holy Innocents Children’s Hospital and Itojo Hospital, where participants learned directly from healthcare workers about the challenges they face in delivering neonatal and maternal healthcare services. 

With support from Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health, CAMTech UGANDA organized the annual hack-a-thon to develop disruptive innovations that have the potential to achieve widespread public health impact.

The Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) is a global network of academic, corporate and implementation partners whose mission is to build entrepreneurial capacity and accelerate medical technology development through an open innovation platform. CAMTech innovators who come from public health, clinical medicine, engineering and business work with end-users in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). 

CAMTech UGANDA is administratively housed at MUST and supports local innovators to transform ideas into solutions that can revolutionize health outcomes for people living in Uganda and across the globe.

“It can be the start of a journey,” Olson said. “CAMTech Boston together with CAMTech UGANDA under the leadership of Dr. Data started five years ago with this idea that if we talk to people who are focusing on challenges that are in their own communities, they’ll come up with better solutions.”

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