Pre-Natal Care Goes Mobile in Uganda

ImageIn Uganda, three students have invented a smartphone application that can measure the heartbeat of a fetus. The device could improve prenatal care in rural clinics, and may even help prevent deaths during childbirth.

Joshua Okello’s first love was medicine. He studied to be a doctor before quitting to pursue his second love: technology. However, his interest in medicine never left him. Last year, Okello and two other students at Kampala’s Makerere University invented a smartphone application that they think could change the face of maternal health care in Africa.

The app is called a WinSenga – “senga” is the local term for an aunt who helps out during pregnancy. It consists of a tiny microphone in a plastic horn, based on the Pinard horn used by midwives for centuries.

“It’s a long cone-shaped device with a hole through it and a flat top. The midwife places it on the belly and listens in. Every midwife in this country has seen it, and that is what they are trained with,” said Okello.

The sound the horn picks up is fed into a smartphone that records and analyzes the fetal heartbeat. From there, said Okello, the WinSenga suggests different courses of action.

“Say you have a baby and we detect that the heartbeat is less than 120 beats per minute. That is a problem. So immediately, we pop up something that says ‘Please, we suggest that you could do A, B, C, D,’” explained Okello.

The device is not yet fully functional, but last year Okello and his partners won a $50,000 grant from Microsoft – the “Win” in WinSenga is short for Windows. They are now developing their app from a Microsoft-funded technology incubator at the university, set up to encourage Uganda’s nascent tech sector.

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Source: All Africa

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