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article imageMicrosoft Cloud puts healthcare in the classroom for Indian kids

By James Walker     Oct 13, 2017 in Technology
A cloud app developed by a determined Indian doctor is helping millions of impoverished children to access healthcare. The app uses biomedical sensing technology and AI to generate a clinical-grade "health report card," based on responses to questions.
The Care N Grow project is the brainchild of Dr. Meghana Kambham, based in the Indian tech-hub city of Hyderabad. The app, featured in an article on Microsoft's newsroom, is meant to let teachers give children routine health check-ups.
In a country with one paediatrician for every 3,000 children, many suffer from easily preventable diseases because they're unable to access basic healthcare. The app allows schools to serve a dual purpose as basic healthcare facilities. Without any formal medical training, teachers can use the cloud-based tool to give their students regular medical check-ups.
The app guides the teacher through asking the child several questions about their general health and basic lifestyle. A machine learning algorithm then pulls in medical data about the child to estimate whether they're healthy and check for any preventable diseases. The app creates a "clinical-grade" health report card that offers recommendations on how to proceed with accessing further medical assistance.
The project demonstrates the transformative impact technology can have on global communities. Kambham criticised India's approach to healthcare as being "primarily a 'sick-care' system," reflecting that preventative assistance is uncommon in the country.
The Care N Grow app
The Care N Grow app
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This has created a culture of denial and self-sufficiency where children suffer and have their opportunities limited by comparatively minor illnesses. Proactive use of technology is emerging as the most effective way of engineering a new healthcare approach around preventative treatment and regular check-ups.
"In med school, I saw a lot of problems that got complicated because of a lack of preventative health care," said Kambham to Microsoft. "When I look at a child who has a disease that could have been prevented, it feels like a chance lost. The answer to this is technology."
In a proof-of-concept trial of the app, 900 of 6,000 children screened were found to have preventable health problems. The app identified a wide range of issues, including malnutrition, diabetes, hair lice and stunted growth.
The test was so successful that the technology will be deployed to over 1,200 schools and 500,000 children across three Indian states. Eventually, it could be used across the entire country, serving as an example of the transformative possibilities offered by cloud technology.
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