Imagine a situation where most kids die at an early age. Imagine this situation in a small rural village. Now, imagine this same situation affecting an entire state, then an entire country and lastly, this world. Would you rather be a passive observer and watch the youth wither away or would you be an active participant in preventing the cause that leads to this widespread deterioration?
India is a diverse country but within this widespread diversity, we see many problems. We may or may not relate to them, but people like Ruchit Nagar, Mohammed Shahnawaz and Preethi Venkat work day and night to find innovative solutions for the same. They are the founders of Khushi Baby, a not-for-profit organization, which is slowly revolutionizing the way we provide immunization to newborn babies. Khushi baby has turned the black thread worn by many newborn babies in Rajasthan into an effective tool to track and record their immunization details.
They have an extended team of 20 members and 10 interns from different countries. Organizations like UNICEF, Andela, Seva Mandir, Yale School of Public Health, IIHMR University Jaipur, Future Health Systems group, etc., fund and support their work. Additionally, they have won several grants to help them with finances.
The app functionality is based on a health worker assigning a new necklace to every baby on the first visit to a vaccination camp. She then uses an NFC-enabled smartphone with the Khushi Baby app to scan the necklace and register the baby by entering details like name, father’s name, mother’s name, date of birth and then she enters the details of the vaccines the child has received so far. The health worker scans the necklace once again after entering the details so that the updated data is available to the parents as well.
When the health workers go back to the block office or any place that has Internet connectivity, they upload the data on a cloud-based dashboard. The Ministry of Health and other health officials can use that data to generate reports, view patient-specific information, see which vaccines were not given and why etc. The dashboard sends out voice calls to mothers’ cell phones too. These calls are in local dialects. They carry educational messages about different vaccines and their importance. The calls also remind mothers about the next vaccination camp.
“We had an idea that we wanted to improve the way medical data is captured, but we didn’t know what form it would take. It was only after talking to people that we realised that a black thread or kala dhaga is put around the neck of many children in that region. So we thought of using it for a larger purpose,” says Ruchit
The manufacturing cost of a necklace is Rs. 50. However, they are given to the babies for free.
“Five lakh children under the age of five die from vaccine-preventable diseases every year in India. Even in the small sample size that we were working with, we came to know about three infant deaths. The numbers open your eyes because you come to realise this is such a huge problem and so much work needs to be done in the field. We are trying to create value and empower people doing the ground work. We want to give them the right tools to ensure that no child and mother are left behind,” concludes Ruchit.
What began as a classroom project at Yale University, is now leading the way for immunization of young children in India and is saving more lives than we can count.
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