The fact that most of us lead healthy lives today can be highly attributed to the special care our parents took in getting us timely vaccinations against deadly diseases during the first few years of our lives.
However, not every child in India is bestowed with this privilege, especially those born into the lesser-privileged sections of the society.
While it is convenient to assert that lack of education and awareness could be a key factor behind the children not being vaccinated, more often than not the failure results out of the casualness with which parents regard neonatal and infant care.
Also, falling under the lower strata of the society, the priority would obviously stand with eking a living out through laborious chores than spend that crucial time to vaccinate the babies or even keep track of it.
Over the years, many government agencies and non-profit organisations have been working hard to change this attitude through awareness programmes and increased accessibility of vaccinations to even the remotest of locations in India.
Amidst the threat of diseases and the impending requirement of vaccinations, one young woman from Mumbai has come up with a unique solution that helps mothers get their infants timely vaccinations through timely reminders.
FollowApp is a web-based application that makes automated and personalised voice calls in vernacular languages to remind the mothers about their child’s scheduled vaccinations based on his or her age.
The application is the brainchild of Swati Humbad, who is a senior associate at Morgan Stanley. Apart from making calls, the app also records the responses of the mothers if their child has availed the vaccines.
“The software has been developed such that a mother would have to press 1 to acknowledge that her child has received the particular vaccination and two if they haven’t. If they don’t answer or respond in the negative, the software makes follow-up calls after three, five and ten days,” says Swati to The Better India.
What makes the app unique is that one does not need to own a smartphone to avail the facility. Being a web-based application, all the calls and prompts are automatically generated that can be received through any basic feature phone and addresses the mother and child by their own names along with the particulars of the vaccine.
The 25-year-old came up with the revolutionary idea while volunteering at SNEHA, a local non-profit organization that focuses on neonatal and infant health development.
“During one of the field visits to a slum dwelling, I happened to talk to a mother who couldn’t remember the age of her own son. That made me realise how difficult would it be for the slum dwellers to keep a track on vaccinations,” she remembers.
Collaborating with a group of developers from Morgan Stanley’s offices in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Montreal, Swati put together the first prototype of FollowApp in September last year.
Her innovative idea went on to clinch the first position at Technophilia, Morgan Stanley India’s annual technology competition.
To test the FollowApp’s real-time application, the team had launched a pilot program in Malwani between May and September, under which 100 mothers had initially signed up.
“Today we have 500 registered mothers under the programme which targets three major vaccines,” Swati proudly mentions.
Swati also explains that the application does not act only as a reminder but also a tracker that captures the vaccination status of each child for each vaccine, making it an indispensable tool in the healthcare sector.
As of now, FollowApp reaches out to the Malwani slum, but Swati hopes to expand its reach across the state, for the potential the application has to impact thousands of lives.
“We intend to share the data with the government eventually to help them create an inventory for vaccinated children but at the same time address critical policies pertaining to the healthcare sector,” she added.