Neonatal Monitoring: Empowering Mothers to Identify Danger Signs

Neonatal Monitoring: Empowering Mothers to Identify Danger Signs

Blog by Christine Diaz, Dillon Dou, Ailon Haileyesus, Ben Ostrander & Katie Solley

We developed NeMo, a neonatal monitoring system, to empower mothers to assess the health of their newborns during the first week of life. This is essential because child mortality is highest in the first week of life, and VHTs often cannot identify newborn danger signs in remote areas until it’s too late. Last year, the team performed usability studies in Iganga to assess how mothers interact with our system. These studies informed our decisions on the development and design of the device. This year our 5-student team continued usability studies using further iterations of the device and interviewed several stakeholders to gather feedback on our innovation. After many interviews and conversations, we will continue to develop our system with the goal of performing a pilot study in the coming months along with creating training modules for the VHTs to lead trainings for mothers.

In the month of August, our team spent two weeks in Iganga and one week in Kampala. We interviewed 20 mothers in 3 villages to learn how they interacted with our device. We interviewed 25 VHTs to discuss “training-to-train” modules, educational programs, and willingness to adapt the new technology. In addition to the interviews, we also met with the Mayor of Iganga, the Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy, and a design team at the International Health Kampala (IHK) Hospital. These were made possible due to the invaluable connections and relationships formed with Makerere University that enabled a productive and informative trip to Uganda.

nemoInterview with Midwives at Naigobya Health Center III in Luuka District- Uganda

Our results show that NeMo is wanted by VHTs: “this is an additional intervention, but has the potential to save newborn lives…When this comes, it will make [VHT’s and mother’s] job easier.” Feedback from midwives in rural clinics confirmed that the device can help not just mothers, but also health care facilities as well. Finally, through our usability study we learned that all 20 mothers believed the device was easy to use and would be willing to use it every day on their baby for the first week of life.

1Interview with VHTs on their Training Day at Naigobya in Luuka District-Uganda

Within the three weeks, we were able to confirm three key assumptions:

  • Mothers will be able to successfully use our device and interface with a smart phone
  • VHTs are willing to facilitate the distribution of the device for the first week of a newborn’s life
  • VHTs and other health official are equipped to learn about the device and successfully transfer the information to mothers

While we have learned a lot so far, the work does not end here. Our team goal is to support the healthcare system to save the lives of babies throughout Uganda and empower mothers to identify illness at an earlier stage. To do this we are maintaining the amazing partners and relationships that were formed last year and throughout August. We plan to return with another working prototype in January to further test hypotheses, obtain more feedback, and advance our project so we can work to the goal of implementing our system and saving babies. What we saw in the villages is a community. A community of leaders, VHTs, and members working together towards the common goal of health and safety for their village. We want to help contribute to the work that is already being done – cultivating our partnerships and fostering an atmosphere of healthcare for all.

3The team with Partners from Makerere University, UDHA, and the Chairman of Bulanga.

All the authors are students at the Johns Hopkins University, Whiting School of Engineering and were recently hosted by Makerere University School of Public Health.

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