A necklace that contains a computer chip is keeping track of immunization records of young children in India.
When linked to a mobile application, health care workers seeing patients in remote villages in India can access real-time data to help ensure that children get and stay up to date on all of their necessary vaccinations.
The college students who developed the device have launched a company called Khushi Baby (“khushi” means “happy” in Hindi). The students traveled to India last year to flesh out their idea for a wearable immunization record. They got the input of nearly 100 mothers of small children, as well as local health care workers.
“Kids are already wearing these types of necklaces for cultural reasons, so it made sense,” says co-founder Ruchit Nagar, a masters of public health student in the epidemiology of microbial diseases department at Yale University. “But we wouldn’t have known that had we not talked to the community.”
The students see their necklace, which can also be worn as a bracelet or anklet, as a way to educate and engage local communities on vaccination, and encourage them to visit established vaccination camps for health services.
“The big challenge is that vaccination is a preventative measure, and you don’t see the immediate effects of getting stabbed with a needle. All you see is your child crying,” says Nagar. “Building a level of awareness and trust is so important.”
A research study is currently underway to determine how well the necklace works to increase immunization rates, which is estimated to vary widely but average between 50 percent to 60 percent in India’s rural areas—still well below the World Health Organization’s benchmark of 90 percent.
The team is also testing the use of automated voice mails, designed by team member Praneeth Sadda and recorded in local dialect, that remind mothers to bring children in for health care services. According to Nagar, the preliminary study data, which will be finalized in the spring, shows that the combination of the necklace and voicemails are having a positive impact on getting kids vaccinated on time.
Next, Khushi Baby plans to continue their impact evaluation, and to scale up. They hope to eventually integrate their system with the existing national health care registry in India, and ultimately transform how data is fed into the system, making it more streamlined and accessible from even the most remote areas.
About 500 children in India are currently wearing the Khushi Baby necklace, and 1,400 children have been tracked to date. Nagar and his team hope this number will expand rapidly in the coming year and that by the end of 2016 as many as 5,000 children will be wearing a Khushi Baby necklace.
Down the line, Nagar says the device could be introduced in other areas with low immunization rates, such as parts of Nigeria, Pakistan, or Latin America. The small computer chip in Khushi Baby could transform the device into a variety of forms, making it culturally accessible anywhere in the world, as well as store new forms of health information for the pregnant mother as well.
Source: Yale University