Outside the Classroom: Mobile Health
Through the project-based class, I began work with a multidisciplinary, multinational team on an innovative, portable infant hearing screening device and a sustainable business model to implement the technology. Our team, composed of MIT, Harvard and Northeastern students, worked hand in hand with teammates in Brazil. At the end of the semester, several of us were fortunate enough to represent the team in Cape Town, South Africa at the GSMA (Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association) Mobile Health competition. After three intense rounds, the panel of executives declared our team the winner, beating out other teams from the USA, Senegal, Jordan, Indonesia, Kenya, India, England, and Lebanon to earn the $5,000 prize and mentorship. Following the win, we’ve had a lot of interest in the project; the WHO even expressed an interest in implementing the project in Asia!
Attending the conference allowed me to revisit the place I left my heart the last time I was in South Africa, God’s Golden Acre. The children’s home is located in KwaZulu-Natal, a rural and impoverished area with the highest HIV infection rates in South Africa. Many of the children are orphans from the period before affordable Anti-retroviral drugs were widely available. Here, challenges to health in the developing world are readily apparent in the long lines at the hospitals, the mythology surrounding HIV/AIDS transmission, and the large numbers of HIV-positive children under the age of ten. The children have no TVs and have limited access to computers. Yet, watching the older girls play Nicki Minaj on their rudimentary cell phones amongst the chickens in the dilapidated yard reinforced the endless possibilities of mobile health. I am looking forward to learning from the implementation of our pilot project in Brazil. There is lots of work left to be done!