Louis Fazen, a doctoral candidate at the Yale School of Public Health, is part of an international team of researchers that has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its “Saving Lives at Birth” project, using smartphones to reduce infant and maternal mortality in Kenya.
According to recent Kenyan surveys, 77 percent of maternal deaths occur within the first 48 hours of delivery, and half of deaths of children under 5 years old occur within the first week of life. Despite this need for timely care, many women deliver babies in their homes without the supervision of a medical professional. Consequently, Kenya has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.
Fazen hopes to equip community health workers with the tools they need to quickly and accurately provide healthcare to women and their newborns through the use of Android smartphones. “I was interested in leveraging some of the same tools that we use in the U.S. in order to help community health workers improve their own service delivery in their communities,” Fazen explained. First, the phones will provide an integrated text messaging system to notify health care providers and direct nearby GPS-tracked vehicles to the site of an emergency. Second, the smartphones will provide community health workers access to an extensive clinical decision support system, which uses medical records to help health workers take appropriate actions.
Fazen strongly believes that these technologies have great potential to provide significant social and health benefits, and he looks forward to optimizing the systems for more extensive implementation in the future.