Africare’s Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program (MBNP) team received one of three USAID’s Global Development Lab’s “Innovation to Action Awards” last week in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes the impact this innovation will have: breaking the cycle of malnutrition and anemia passed from mother to child, and engendering good nutrition and health in the crucial first 1,000 days of life, ensuring children grow, learn, and thrive.
The Africare-developed Hb Meter is a mobile device app for Android® smartphones developed to help program staff measure anemia levels in communities in Tanzania. It can tell if a person is anemic within 15 seconds without drawing any blood. Simply put an index finger on the device and the camera’s flash is able to filter through the skin to measure relevant blood levels, categorizing the result as “severe”, “mild”, or “no anemia” in line with World Health Organization standards. The app provides the results electronically on site, and can feed the data directly into health systems databases and dashboards, codified and anonymized to protect the privacy of each individual.
MBNP Testing at Muhimbili Hospital, Tanzania
Before the app trained staff has to draw blood, run a test, and read the results to diagnose anemia; this process took several minutes and was dependent on the individual being comfortable with having their blood drawn. The breakthrough of this invention means easy, fast identification of anemia without specific clinical training requirements, needles, or test kits; especially useful when working with infants or vulnerable adults, and in remote areas. The cost of the test was also greatly reduced from about 62 cents per individual to 1 cent per individual.
An indicator of poor nutrition or underlying illness, anemia results in poor health, including loss of energy and reduced physical capacity. In Tanzania, over half of all pregnant women, and more than 1 in 3 women are likely to be anemic. Anemia in pregnancy is associated with illness and death of both the mother and baby, including increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth, and low birth weight. Africare’s Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program, funded by USAID and implemented in Tanzania, aims to eliminate 20% of all anemia in the first 1,000 days of life using social and behavior change communication to improve nutrition.
Throughout the continent Africare has been recognized for its program implementation excellence. As a top global innovator in Senegal, Africare received the Innovative Solutions Award to Prevent Infant/Maternal Deaths at the “DevelopmentXChange” Saving Lives at Birth Conference for a groundbreaking ICT platform to improve care in pregnancy, delivery and right after childbirth for both mother and baby in remote areas of Senegal.
Africare’s MBNP team was honored for this breakthrough mobile app at an award ceremony during Global Innovation Week held at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington D.C.