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A pendant for child's health

The Khushi Baby project team. Photo: Special Arrangement
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A U.S. classroom project is helping track vaccination for kids in Rajasthan.

What started off as a classroom project at the premier Yale University is now tracking the immunisation records of more than 200 children in remote villages in Rajasthan.

The idea of the Khushi Baby project was formed when Indian-American student Ruchit Nagar was working on an assignment as part of his course on Engineering and Design at Yale University. Eighteen months later, not only has he successfully launched the project, he has also formed a strong team in India and the U.S. which looks after the project that helps to monitor a child’s immunisations through a chip-enabled pendant worn by the child.

Team Khushi Baby, comprising Nagar (co founder and co director), Mohammad Shahnawaz, Preethi Venkat and Logan Stone talk about the project’s journey from classroom to implementation.

What is the main aim of the Khushi Baby project?

There are a large number of children who do not receive the requisite immunisations in several remote pockets of India. Several States have very low figures of immunisation. There are places where healthcare workers cannot reach, or, at times, medical records of babies are misplaced. The aim of our project is to decentralise patients’ medical records with the help of wearable technology.

How does the wearable technology work?

We have introduced a waterproof pendant which can be worn by a baby. It is fitted with a chip that contains the child’s immunisation records and can be scanned and read with the help of a smartphone app by a healthcare worker when he/she is going to administer vaccines.

All the records are stored in the pendant and are uploaded to a cloud server when a healthcare worker goes to the city. Thus, the pendant is like the child’s medical passport and acts like a visual reminder to the mothers to keep the child updated with vaccines.

How did the mothers take to the pendants?

In States like Rajasthan, a black thread is usually tied around babies to ward off the “evil eye.” We only added a pendant to the thread. We had several brainstorming sessions with the mothers where we proposed bracelets, anklets and other options. But mothers mostly favoured the pendants.

How many babies are wearing this pendant?

Currently, there are 500 babies, aged between one month and 12 months, across 40 villages in Rajasthan. Most of these villages are not easily accessible. We aim to cover 1,000 children in the coming nine months. Fifty pendants were handed out in April.

Why start with Rajasthan? Are you planning to branch out to other States?

We partnered with the NGO Seva Mandir which has been conducting immunisation drives in Rajasthan for the past 40 years. As of now, we do not have any expansion plans. We are in talks with other NGOs to assist us in Rajasthan. However, we do plan to branch out to maternal healthcare. That’s a natural plan of expansion. We hope to provide pregnant women with a pendant which can be transferred to her baby later on.

How many members are working in the team?

There are 12 members in the core team, based both in India as well as in the U.S. There are about 30-40 other members in India, who are mostly locals residents from Rajasthan.

These people work at the grassroots level and their work includes calling up the mothers to remind them about their child’s upcoming vaccine shot.

What about funding?

We had managed to raise $30,000 through a campaign in November last year. We mostly receive research-based grants from educational institutions, including Yale University and Johns Hopkins University.

Any plans of collaborating with the government?

Although we have not yet approached the government of India, we are in talks with the Rajasthan government’s Ministry of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

We are conducting a randomised control group study where we have handed out stickers instead of pendants to children. We will approach the government only after we have good, research-backed data.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2018 10:06:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/a-pendant-for-childs-health/article7569356.ece