STUDENTS of the Indian Institute of Technology, Powai, are saving lives of women in slums and rural areas using a combination of easy-to-use mobile applications and a pregnancy kit. After successful trials in 60 villages of Aurangabad district, the technology is set to be operationalised in various health posts of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, (BMC) in the slums of Govandi and Kurla, in suburban Mumbai.
Called ‘Care Mother’, the mobile application helps detect pregnant women, categorised as high-risk cases, through health workers and link them with doctors for 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, foetal heart rate, protein and sugar levels. The application identifies high-risk women by calculating a combination of parameters,” said co-founder of the application, Shantanu Pathak.
Pathak is attached with the bio-medical department of IIT Bombay where he developed the programme with IIT Madras alumni Aditya Kulkarni. Last year, the two conducted trials of the mobile app in the fringes of Mumbai, along with NGOs.
In rural areas, owing to poor awareness, pregnant women do not attend regular check-ups at health camps. The health worker or ante-natal care (ANC) workers can use the portable kit to measure blood pressure, haemoglobin, urine and basic parameters on home-to-home visits and feed all information on the application. Local doctors will get an alert on high-risk women identified in the region through the same application loaded on their phones. The only glitch for health workers and doctors is that they should have a smartphone that can install the application.
“It empowers NGOs, hospitals and doctors to keep high-risk women, such as anaemic or hypertensive, on radar,” Pathak said. In Maharashtra, pregnancy induced hypertension can lead to eclampsia, which is the most common cause of maternal deaths.
While the mobile app does not replace sonography tests, it aids in tackling common causes of maternal deaths.
Till now, 5,000 women have been registered. The software uses World Health Organisation guidelines to classify normal and high-risk women by using test results of foetal heart rate, previous clinical diagnosis and gestational period. “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,” Pathak said. The app also plots a graph to show foetal heart rate by using a device attached to the mother. In its pilot programme, the appl was used on women in Palghar region. The BMC now plans to implement it in 15 health posts before scaling it up. The IITians claim at least 90 per cent of common pregnancy woes can be prevented. They are now working on adding more features. “… 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,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, deputy executive health officer, BMC. The app has been bought by Nagaland government and NGOs from Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.