It’s impossible to deny how ubiquitous the cell phone has become, even in underdeveloped nations. So it comes as no surprise that innovators are looking to use cell phones as a platform to provide access to diagnostics-based technology, among others. An undergraduate student project at Johns Hopkins University, HemoGlobe, was recently awarded a $250,000 seed grant from the Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development competition, which was sponsored by prominent global health organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The low cost screening device is aimed at a “prick free” method for identifying individuals with anemia in developing nations, in particular pregnant women and newborns who die from 100,000 maternal deaths and 600,000 newborn deaths annually.
The device, which is estimated to be manufactured at $10-20 [phone not included], consists of a sensor connected to a cell phone. The sensor, which emits different wavelength of light through the skin, detects the hemoglobin level in the blood. The output display on the cell phone screen is in the form of a colored dashboard with a ranking from mild to severe. Using these electronic records, health care workers can track, in real time, the prevalence of anemia in different regions and help to ensure that urgent care is provided to the areas that need it first.
From the JHU Gazette:
In places where medical care is easily accessible, doctors routinely test pregnant women for anemia and prescribe treatment, including routine iron supplementation. But in developing regions, where medical help is not always nearby, the condition may go undetected. However, community health workers with limited training do serve these areas.
“The team members realized that every community health worker already carries a powerful computer in their pocket—their cellphone,” Acharya [an assistant research professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering] said. “So we didn’t have to build a computer for our screening device, and we didn’t have to build a display. Our low-cost device will use the existing cellphones of health workers to estimate and report hemoglobin levels.”
More at JHU Gazette: Students’ cellphone screening device for anemia wins $250,000 prize