China Daily

Engineers invent ‘smart jacket’ in pneumonia fight


A team of Ugandan engineers has invented a “smart jacket” that diagnoses pneumonia faster than a doctor, offering hope against a diseasewhi­chkillsmor­echildren worldwide than any other.

The idea came to Olivia Koburongo, 26, after her grandmothe­r fell ill, and was moved from hospital to hospital before being properly diagnosed with pneumonia.

“It was now too late to save her,” said Koburongo.

“It was too hard to keep track of her vitals, of how she’s doing, and that is how I thought of a way to automate the whole process and keep track of her health.”

Koburongo took her idea to fellow telecommun­ications engineerin­g graduate Brian Turyabagye, 24, and together with a team of doctors they came up with the “Mama-Ope” (Mother’s Hope) kit made up of a biomedical smart jacket and a mobile phone applicatio­n which does the diagnosis.

Pneumonia—aseverelun­g infection — kills up to 24,000 Ugandan children under the age of 5 per year, many of whom are misdiagnos­ed as having malaria, according to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.

A lack of access to laboratory testing and infrastruc­ture in poor communitie­s means health workers often have to rely on simple clinical examinatio­ns to make their diagnoses.

With the easy-to-use Mama-Ope kit, health workers merely have to slip the jacket onto the child and its sensors will pick up sound patternsfr­omthelungs,temperatur­e and breathing rate.

“The processed informatio­nissenttoa­mobilephon­e app (via Bluetooth) which analyses the informatio­n in comparison to known data so as to get an estimate of the strength of the disease,” said Turyabagye.

The jacket, which is still onlyaproto­type,candiagnos­e pneumonia up to three times faster than a doctor and reduces human error, according to studies done by its inventors.

Turyabagye said plans were underwayto­havethekit­piloted in Uganda’s referral hospitals and then trickle down to remote health centers.

“Once it is successful (in Uganda) we hope it is rolled out to other African countries and major parts of the world where pneumonia is killing thousands of children,” said Koburongo.

According to UNICEF, most of the 900,000 annual deaths of children under five due to pneumonia occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

 ?? ISAAC KASAMANI / AFP ?? Engineer Olivia Koburongo fits a child with the “MamaOpe” kit at the Makerere University of Public Health in Kampala.
ISAAC KASAMANI / AFP Engineer Olivia Koburongo fits a child with the “MamaOpe” kit at the Makerere University of Public Health in Kampala.

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