Mobile phones have become the 11th finger in everyone's hands all over the world. The brick sized, heavy hand-held devices meant for only making/receiving calls and texts are now history and we have now smart phones that get smarter every day. As usual, the ever-inquisitive scientists are burning the midnight oil to find ways to use cell phones in the field of health care.
The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation recently announced grants of $100,000 each to 8 scientists pioneering the use of mobile phones to improve health care in communities where resources are limited. The interesting grant winning proposals of mobile phones include the scientists Peter Lillehoj and Chih-Ming Ho of the University of California, Los Angeles, who have proposed to develop a disposable malaria biosensor based on a SIM card platform. The SIM card-biosensor will allow malaria detection to be performed using a cell-phone, which will go on to make diagnostic testing more widely available in remote areas, especially in African countries with high burden of malaria and limited resources.
Terry Ferrari of World Vision will be field testing the use of two cell phone modules that will help community healthcare workers in Mozambique caring for pregnant women and newborns to assess, to take action, and to refer cases with complications and emergencies. Marc Mitchell of D-Tree International have developed a cell phone based tool that uses clinical algorithms to quickly identify women at risk during labor and delivery and assist with emergency transfer to a hospital. These tools hold great promise to significantly bring down the maternal and infant mortality rates, if they field tests turn out to be successful. A mobile phone-based vaccination registry that uses fingerprint scans to track people who have received immunizations, to reduce redundant doses and increase coverage levels in developing countries is also on the cards.
Mobile phone cameras are also put into use for capturing microscopic pictures and sending them across the globe for tele-diagnosis. It is heartening to see one of the most beneficial inventions of the century being put to right use, to save the fellow mankind. What else the science and technology innovations are for?
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