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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 09:49 AM CDT

Telemedicine for Chubby-Cheeked Kids

Penn State students combine inspiration and innovation with cost-effective technology to bring healthcare to rural East Africa
Khanjan Mehta, Penn State University
A Kenyan woman uses a spirometer to check her lung capacity. Penn State students made the device from a piece of PVC pipe and a vibration sensor attached to a DAQ card for less than $10. New devices cost $50 and up.
A Penn State student works with a Kenyan family at a Mashavu kiosk. He will log onto the Mashavu server and create (or update) a patient profile, which includes questions on contact information, social history and medical history.
A woman gets her blood pressure taken. For many rural people in East Africa, Mashavu is the first time they’ve had any healthcare assessments or treatments.
A young boy shows the card with his healthcare vitals. Mashavu’s goal is for him, and all East African youngsters, to become healthy and chubby-cheeked.
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By Barry Hochfelder

The program’s seeds were planted in 2007 when one of the labs in Mehta’s Sensor and Controller System Integration class involved creating a telemedicine system using commercial-off-the-shelf devices. Based on the lab, a student team developed a proof-of-concept for a mobile-to-mobile communication system for disaster relief. Mehta and student Aaron Fleishman combined this lab experience with research and experience working in and understanding health problems in East Africa to conceptualize Mashavu.

“We were trying to figure out how to use the system in a disaster,” Mehta says. “We were working on that with the Chinese, but it didn’t go anywhere, so we decided to modify the system to help Kenya with medical needs.”

On this summer’s trip to Kenya in May and June, he was accompanied by 33 Penn State students, two doctors, a nurse, an IT person, and two people filming a documentary. “We also had someone from Johnson & Johnson for a week. We’re trying to get them involved in redesigning and manufacturing devices.”

The Mashavu team has a number of partners in East Africa. They include the Children and Youth Empowerment Center (CYEC) in Nyeri, Kenya; The United Nations Industrial Development Office (UNIDO) mission in Kenya; the United African Alliance Community Center (UAACC) in Imbaseni, Tanzania, and the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) at the University of Arusha in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Kenyan government also is very interested, Mehta says. “We had a request to see if we can put Mashavu in a backpack so community health workers can use it when they go on rounds from house to house. The African Medical Research Foundation also is trying to implement Mashavu.”



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