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Nakuru uses mobile app to monitor expectant mothers

Some 396 expectant mothers from Nakuru County have been incorporated into a new technology, which is still under trials that employs Artificial Intelligence to save them from high healthcare costs and unnecessary visits to hospitals.

County Coordinator for Reproductive Health, Ms. Clara Kerich, said the new innovation developed in collaboration with Kabarak University is designed to monitor and improve health of pregnant women with a view of reducing the number of maternal health complications and deaths within the devolved unit.

Ms. Kerich said the roll-out is a Second Phase Pilot project before the program is fully adopted across all levels of care. The project initially involved 150 expectant mothers during the First Phase of its trials at Level 3 and Level 4 Public Health Facilities within Nakuru County and later integrated an additional 170 women before it came to a close in October last year.

“Trials have shown that the new innovation has resulted in an improvement in earlier detection and intervention of Pre-eclampsia, which is one of the main causes of maternal deaths. The system has also improved quality and coverage of essential maternal newborn and child health services.” She added.

Other partners in the project funded by the National Research Fund (NRF) include, Technical University of Mombasa (TUK), Strathmore University, IntelliSOFT Consulting Limited and Emed Solutions Limited.

“The project features smart watches equipped with artificial intelligence and applications that monitor blood pressure among expectant women. The gadgets is also used by health officials to identify hypertensive disorders during pregnancies,” noted Ms. Kerich.

County Coordinator for Reproductive Health further observed that the devolved unit’s initiatives aimed at providing affordable and quality health care had realized significant gains as maternal mortality had declined from 488 deaths per 100,000 live births to the current 362 per 100,000 live births.

According to the latest report issued by the National Council for Population Development Nakuru is ranked 25 out of 47 counties on prevalence of maternal mortality.

In 2014 the devolved unit was ranked among the top six (6) counties in the country with a high maternal death burden.

Ms. Kerich who spoke during the launch of the Second Phase was accompanied by lead researcher from Kabarak University, Dr Moses Thiga.

She stated that the Smart Watch Project (SWP) is being used to develop a blood pressure data collection and monitoring system for expectant mothers at out of clinic settings.

“The SWP is enabling health care workers to predict the probability of development of high blood pressure and hypertension among expectant mothers.

We are integrating the blood pressure data collection and monitoring system with the existing Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system for use in health care and data analysis and visualization,” explained the County Coordinator for Reproductive Health.

Dr Thiga indicated that prior to the launch of the new technology the Department of Health and Kabarak University had conducted a research that mapped out various public facilities reporting high prevalence rates of preeclampsia and eclampsia among expectant women.

“Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure that is potentially dangerous to the organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. It usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure has been normal. Eclampsia is a severe complication of Preeclampsia. It is a rare but serious condition where high blood pressure results in seizures during pregnancy. Eclampsia afflicts about 1 in every 200 women with preeclampsia,” explained the lead researcher.

The smart watches are equipped with apps that monitor expectant mothers’ blood pressure on an hourly basis and issue timely alerts through an alarm system when blood pressure either drops or rises to abnormal levels. It is also fitted with a system that records retrievable data on an hourly basis.

“Project aims at bringing a digitized solution to respond to maternal health issues especially Preeclampsia and eclampsia. The smart watches have been designed to increase surveillance, early detection and identification of women who may develop the conditions to enable early interventions. The watches check the blood pressure of the mothers at regular intervals of between 5 minutes to 1 hour depending on set preferences. They also keep the history of readings that can later be used by caregivers.

Available data has proven that hypertensive conditions are highest contributors of maternal deaths and complications before and after delivery,” noted Dr Thiga.

The County Department of Health has been training its workers on compilation and analysis of data provided by the smart watch innovation towards improving hypertensive disorders during and immediately after pregnancy.

“This new tech will boost public facilities’ capacities to put in place interventions in the communities throughout the County aimed at addressing causes of maternal deaths,” offered Dr Thiga.

By Jane Ngugi and David Opingo


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