To bring make the “backpack-midwife” health care for all

Monty Munford

Call the midwife in Nairobi, Kenya, and you will receive a visit from someone like Margaret Wairimu Maina.

She embarks on foot on the lookout slightly like an astronaut with a backpack stuffed with hi-tech devices designed to monitor the health of the baby.

The pack includes a wind-up Fetal doppler to measure baby’s heartbeat, a portable ultrasound screen, a life-light with the appropriate solar panel, in-ear thermometers, and a number of other medical devices and instruments in connection with the pregnancy.

The gear is of crucial importance for their voluntary work as community health workers.

Although the backpack weighs only 5 kg (11 lb), it is still a heavy burden, as she makes her rounds twice a week, says Margaret. It is responsible for more than 120 households in the area and it creates up to 20 per day, if you check out between noon and 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

“I have two sons, aged five and 11,” she says. “Both of my pregnancies were very OK, no complications, because I started my ante-natal care visits after only two months, and I had a qualified phone for the delivery.”

Many other women in the country are not so lucky.

In Kenya, in contrast to other African countries such as Ethiopia, primary health care, which are not paid for by the government or a local authority.

Margaret works in the Kiambu community Life Centre, North of Nairobi, where volunteers are to the health of workers, the first point of contact for medical help.


“In large parts of Africa, people like Margaret are unpaid volunteers, often the lack of formal training or even basic equipment to help them with their tasks,” says Jasper Westerink, chief executive of Philips in Africa are developed, the company, the the the backpack.

“For years, we have strong focus on the mother-and-child care in Africa.”

Working with the local government, Philips developed a number of community-life centers to support community health workers and midwives equipped with these hi-tech backpacks.

“Our goal is to improve the introduction of this model in the whole of Africa dramatically and access to primary health care,” says Mr West rink.

In the meantime, on the other side of Nairobi, Kibera is located. It is the largest slum in Africa, and although officially the home of 500,000 people, some estimate, it could, in fact, two million inhabitants.

Kibera is an open sewer, which may have little or no sanitation – access to a random matrix of undulating roads and trails, to the ambulance.

In fact, the only one in the proximity of an ambulance, an improvised wheelbarrow is fitted with a yellow siren to the handles. The patients are in the cart, and the lucky ones are on wheels for the community health clinic.

However, in the remote region of Mandera, Kenya’s North-Eastern border between Somalia and Ethiopia, the pregnant women themselves do not have the possibility of a wheelbarrow ambulance.

It takes two days to reach the area across the street from Nairobi, and the infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, with nearly 4,000 deaths per 100,000 births.

The public transport is so expensive here that traveling with the camel is the only option for pregnant women. It is not surprising that by the time you finally reach a doctor, you are not only in great danger to lose her unborn child, you are in great danger himself.

A new clinic was established in the region in the past year, through a partnership between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Mandera county, local government, and Philips.

“Maternal and neonatal health outcomes in Kenya’s remote six counties contribution of almost 50% of all deaths among mothers in Kenya and we want to prevent with centers like this,” says Dr. Ademola Olajide of UNFPA.

The remoteness of these regions means that wearable health-monitoring technologies with mobile connectivity-are proof of inestimable value for the local volunteers, who can now access the knowledge and advice of experts far away.More Technology, Business

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To develop, for example, in Ghana, the Ghana Health Service and the Novartis Foundation, in collaboration, a nationwide “telehealth” program to 2019.

Community health workers can access specialist doctors, nurses and midwives over a 24 – hour tele-consultation center It began as a pilot in a remote part of the Ashanti region in the year 2011, the 30 municipalities of around 35,000 people.

Now Novartis says it tele-consultation centres are enough to serve the whole country.

In another example, Uganda’s MamaOpe a Smart vest has application for the diagnosis and continuous monitoring of pneumonia in children. The disease is often misdiagnosed as malaria.

Nana Kofi Acquah/Novartis Foundation

In a matter of minutes, the collected data is sent to the doctors can make a diagnosis quickly and cost-effectively.

And smartphones a diagnostic tools in their own right, the exam for hearing loss, for example. The “invisible epidemic’, with millions of people worldwide

Connected to services, such as IBM’s Watson supercomputer, with its ability to absorb large parts of the clinical and social data and is likely to come up with forecasts, which give you, the local community health workers ‘ access to knowledge they would never previously have had.

But while such technology can be impressive, it would be of little use without the heroic efforts of volunteers, the health of the workers, such as Margaret Wairimu Maina.

Their work is not always easy, she admits.

“Sometimes I find it very difficult to go emotionally in the community and interact with people, the disadvantaged, who have little or no resources,” she says.

“But this is what I have to do, and it makes me happy to be useful and known in the community.”Follow the technology to the Business editor, Matthew wall, on Twitter and Facebook
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