A mobile application is poised to help save the lives of hundreds of women in India, especially those living in slums and rural areas.
Developed by the students of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B), the app is enabled to detect pregnant women, particularly those who have been categorised as ‘high-risk’ through health workers, or Ante Natal Care (ANC) workers.
The app, named “Care Mother”, has been successfully tested in 60 villages of Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district.
The app will soon be used in Mumbai too. It is slated to be incorporated at health posts, that fall under BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation), in the slums of Govandi and Kurla.
Offering a combination of a pregnancy kit, for initial detection, and the easy-to-use mobile app, health workers hope to play a major role in connecting pregnant women with doctors in their proximity so that they can avail regular check-ups and ante-natal care.
“The health worker can create an account for each pregnant woman on the mobile application. Their basic information is then fed in, including blood pressure, diabetes status, weight, age, fetal heart rate, protein and sugar levels. The application identifies high-risk women by calculating a combination of parameters,” Shantanu Pathak, who is one of the brains behind the app, told Indian Express.
In collaboration with the bio-medical department of IIT-Bombay, Shantanu co-developed the programme with Aditya Kulkarni, an IIT Madras alumnus. Together, the duo conducted trials of the app in the suburbs of Mumbai, pairing up with various NGOs, last year.
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Women belonging to underprivileged communities, be it in the slums or the rural areas, often miss regular check-ups at the health camps. A major reason for this shortcoming is low awareness among the communities, leading to a lot of maternal deaths many of which could be averted if diagnosed at the right time.
Using a portable pregnancy kit to measure blood pressure, haemoglobin, urine and basic parameters on home-to-home visits, the ANC workers can feed this information into the app, which will alert local doctors about the high-risk women in the area, via the same app installed on their phones. “It empowers NGOs, hospitals and doctors to keep high-risk women, such as anaemic or hypertensive, on radar,” adds Shantanu.
Using World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, the software classifies normal and high-risk women using data from the test results of foetal heart rate, previous clinical diagnosis and gestational period.
A graph, plotted using foetal heart rate with the help of a device attached to the mother, will be displayed by the app.
“If the weight gain is more than 2.27 kg a month, the mother may be at high risk because of change in amniotic fluid levels. The app can decipher such finer details,” Shantanu said.
The app’s intervention will prove significant, since a major chunk of maternal deaths in Maharashtra is caused by eclampsia, a case of hypertension induced by pregnancy.
The only hiccup in the arrangement would be the requirement of a smartphone that can support the app, for each health worker and doctor.
About 5000 women have registered until now. While no mobile app can be a complete replacement of sonography tests (as of now), Care Mother can help in averting maternal deaths with timely diagnosis. During the pilot project, the app was used for women belonging to the Palghar region. According to the IITians, almost 90% of common pregnancy woes can be thwarted if diagnosed on time.
“In slums, where women do not come for regular screening, the application will be helpful as basic services will be delivered at the door step,” Dr Mangala Gomare, deputy executive health officer, BMC, told Indian Express.
Already procured by the Nagaland state government and various NGOs from Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, the app promises to play a significant role towards mother and prenatal care, especially for those who can’t afford tests and travel expenses.