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Silver lining on the horizon?

There may be some glimmer of hope in Africa with the home-grown biomedical smart jacket.

Ugandan inventor, Brian Turyabagye, created a medical smart jacket – ‘Mama Ope’ or ‘Hope for the Mother’ – which uses bluetooth to diagnose pneumonia in children. It works like a stethoscope, measuring body temperature, heart rate and lung condition.

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The jacket examines the chest and the side of a patient’s body, surveying the lungs for swelling caused by infection which could be symptoms of pneumonia.

Connected to a smart app, Mama Ope, via bluetooth transmits, records and analyses the findings in a way that any healthcare professional can make informed diagnosis that can influence what sort of quick action can be given to sick children such as treatment and referrals.

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According to the inventor, who spoke to our reporter, the jacket mitigates almost all human error and can diagnose pneumonia three to four times faster than a doctor.

Although Turyabagye’s first direct encounter with the disease was from his friend’s grandma who died from it following wrong diagnosis and treatment thereafter, his motivation was to ensure that children were especially protected.

He said, “That’s how we began the journey of creating something with a focus on children, having noticed the rates were higher across the age group of 0 to five years.”

Speaking on the need for caregivers not to neglect observing their children and behaviour patterns for tell-tale signs of pneumonia, Turyabagye said, “The children do not possess the ability to easily communicate any pains if they are sick. That in a way implies that diagnosis or home care has to be given critical attention to figure out any odd patterns in case of a slight suspicion of pneumonia.”

From his extensive research on the disease in Africa and findings which aided his invention, the 25-year-old, spoke about common misconceptions about pneumonia in the region.

He said, “In our setting, it is common that pneumonia is always treated for malaria just because this has already received a lot of publicity in most areas and thus everyone almost treats any fevers with anti-malaria. This has in the long run created an issue of drug resistance.”

While the smart jacket is still in the process of being in the open market, Afegbua encourages that prevention is better than cure, emphasising that creating awareness is the best way to prevent any disease, especially pneumonia.

 

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