From keeping track of the baby’s first smile and first steps to ensuring it is immunized on time, a new app may well revolutionize how you monitor your child’s development.
A new baby is a blessing. To see the baby grow up safe and healthy is the wish of every parent in the world. However, given that pediatricians are busy and often not able to spend much time with patients, and parents are unaware or ignorant about what to watch out for to ensure a baby’s proper growth, many children end up suffering from long-term developmental problems.
It is in this light that a new app called Babysteps, which can help track a baby’s development and health from 0-2 years in particular, could make a tremendous difference.
Currently being developed by Neha Kumar (Assistant Professor of Global Development and Human-Computer Interaction at Georgia Tech), in collaboration with Rajesh Chandwani (a pediatrician and IIM-A professor), this app could see the light of day very soon.
The two met at a medical Jugaad-a-thon organized by CAMTech India, along with Glocal Healthcare and GE Healthcare, in July 2014 where they walked away with the top prize of INR 2,50,000. There were initially two other team members, Harkiran Dhingra (an engineer manufacturing biomedical devices) and Milind Kopikare (an entrepreneur making nano-diagnostic devices), but they had to leave due to other commitments.
Neha had already worked in the field of maternal and child health in rural Uttar Pradesh. Some experience in this field brought her to the hackathon, where she met Rajesh who gave some crucial insights on child health, which got them thinking about the right intervention.
Being a pediatrician, Rajesh knew the challenges faced in the field, as many pediatricians cannot give more than seven minutes of their time to one child on an average. This time is not sufficient to detect any developmental defects in the child.
As they discussed more about the issue, they became more convinced on launching a platform, which could fill this gap.
“Many parents are not aware of the progress of their child in the early stages. Whether the kid has some kind of disorder or if he/she is of the right weight, or has any health-related concerns, is often not measured at the initial stages. This app will bridge that gap and we all felt very strongly about it.”
– Neha Kumar.
Also, parents often visit the doctors only when the child falls sick. Hence, many minor symptoms that indicate a delay in natural development of the child go unnoticed. Detecting them late makes them harder and costlier to treat.
“For instance, if a child has a minor visual defect and parents notice it on time, it’ll be easier to treat that defect as compared to detecting it when it is already too late,” explains Neha.
Since parents are very emotionally engaged with their children – often keeping memory books that record the baby’s first smile, first steps, first words, etc. – this app will help them keep track of the child’s medical milestones too.
In India, about 25%- 31.5% of the children fail to achieve one or more age-appropriate developmental milestones due to late detection and intervention by medical professionals. The first three years of the growth of a child are very crucial. What the child learns at this stage stays with him or her for life. It is essential, therefore, to monitor not just the child’s health but whether he or she is reaching developmental milestones in time.
“Often, development delays get detected late, because parents are not aware of which signs to watch out for. This app will send them timely reminders and updates on their child’s health, following which they can take timely action,” says Neha.
Babysteps app has set 100 milestones which parents can check to monitor a child’s healthy growth. These milestones can be as simple as sitting to more complex ones like understanding commands.
For example, you give a child 2 spoons and 2 cubes and demonstrate the process of bringing them together. And then observe the kid’s action and see if he/she is able to replicate what you did and see whether he moves both hands or uses just one hand. Similarly there are other exercises that can help you track whether the child is growing in a healthy way.
The app will also have charts that follow the baby’s weight and other physical development markers. This feature, for instance, could help parents determine whether their child is obese or malnourished or healthy for his or her age.
Babysteps will have yet another crucial feature to keep track of immunization, something that is often ignored or forgotten by parents. “Often families forget the date or lose track of timely immunization of the kids. The app will have a calendar which will act as a reminder for important dates,” says Neha.
Neha and Rajesh started developing the Babysteps app in 2014. They expect to have it out in the market by next year; the team is currently working on giving final shape to the mobile app and looking at the business feasibility of the idea.
“It is difficult to pursue such an ambitious project with a full time job. Rajesh and I are sticking to it because we both are from research background and want to make this initiative a reality,” says Neha.
Photo for representation purpose only. Courtesy: www.usaid.gov
Around 100 people have already tested the prototype and the response has been positive. The target users of the app are people from the lower-income group who are often not able to make expensive visits to pediatricians. They will be able to use the technology to monitor their babies’ health to some extent, although the app is not a substitute for important medical check-ups.
Having received an initial push at the jugaad-a-thon event, the team did not just get a cash prize but also significant support and mentorship after the event. With a vision to supporting medical technology innovation to improve health conditions in low and middle-income countries, CAMTech India organizes the annual jugaad-a-thon to bring together some of the world’s brightest minds for developing innovative health technologies. The 48-hour event serves as a launchpad for innovative ideas, which are further incubated by CAMTech India to reach fruition.
“The CAMTech Innovation Platform provides global health innovators the resources they need to move from an idea all the way to commercialization and patient impact. With an innovation such as BabySteps, the Platform offers mentorship from a global network of experts across business, public health and technology. In addition, the BabySteps team can access tools, partnerships and funding, while being able to showcase their innovation to many stakeholders in the global health ecosystem,”
– Elizabeth Bailey, Director, CAMTech.
“BabySteps would definitely not have been in existence without CAMTech and the Jugaad-a-thon. So as far as we are concerned, it is the place for innovators in the MedTech space to bring their ideas!” says Neha.
The app will be available on Android.