Perspectives Innovation

The Students Who Reinvented the Ultrasound

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    TheNewAfrica

WinSenga is the flagship product of Cipher 256, a young startup from Uganda. It’s a handheld device that can scan a pregnant woman’s womb and report fetal weight, position, breathing patterns, age, and heart rate. The information is transmitted to a smart phone and into the mobile application that plays the part of the nurse’s ear and recommends a course of action.

Uganda.  Working at the Mulago Hospital in the Ugandan capital of Kampala during a break before university, Aaron Tushabe is struck by the crowds and the suffering. He thinks not only about those who are waiting in the long lines but the 80 percent of Ugandans who live in rural areas and can’t make the trek to the capitol for medical care. Aaron leaves the hospital determined to find a way to help.

Months later, attending a hackathon with fellow university freshman Josh Okello, the two meet Joseph Kaizzi, an IT expert and Imagine Cup participant who encourages them to create a team for the upcoming competition. Imagine Cup is a global student technology program and competition that provides opportunities for students to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create solutions that can change the way we live, work, and play. In 2012, the competition asked technologists to address the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

One of those goals is to improve maternal health and infant mortality. Aaron and Josh, who spent some time in medical school before pursuing IT degrees, both thought of the Mulago Hospital. Their collective experience with maternal health and maternity wards led them to seek a solution for women in their community.

They set out to create a portable, mobile and affordable tool to help mothers with prenatal care. The result was WinSenga (Win for Windows and Senga is the Luganda word for auntie, the woman charged with guiding mothers in reproductive health). The young inventors say:

We are NOT trying to re-invent the wheel, rather modify existing technologies to solve old problems. We look at OLD PROBLEMS in a NEW WAY.

WinSenga is a handheld device that can scan a pregnant woman’s womb and report fetal weight, position, breathing patterns, age, and heart rate. It uses a plastic trumpet-shaped device, similar to the Pinard horn, and a microphone. The information is transmitted to a smart phone and into the mobile application that plays the part of the nurse’s ear and recommends a course of action. The analysis and recommendations are uploaded to the cloud and can be accessed by a doctor anywhere to track progress at any time. Thus, WinSenga will give high-risk mothers in rural areas access to prenatal care.

Here is an impressive and convincing video on how WinSenga works, get an introduction by Aaron and Josh:

Uganda has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and according to UNICEF, less than 40 percent of mothers make the recommended four prenatal visits due to long distances to hospitals, lack of effective equipment, and understaffing. “Most clinics in rural areas don’t have ultrasound machines and women can’t afford to travel,” Aaron says. A prenatal visit costs about 20,000 Uganda shillings (US$10) in the Mulago Hospital.

Please read the whole story on the Microsoft YouthSpark Blog.

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