NMU app brings health care closer to people

PROMOTING HEALTH: Nelson Mandela University’s Centre for Community Technologies head, professor Darelle van Greunen
PROMOTING HEALTH: Nelson Mandela University’s Centre for Community Technologies head, professor Darelle van Greunen
Image: Supplied

Medical emergencies can happen at any time and for those where clinics and first-aid skills are scarce, that can be a scary prospect. 

But, Nelson Mandela University’s Centre for Community Technologies is helping with an innovative app that spreads knowledge to far-flung areas. 

The centre is now set to present its innovative health-care application at the 2020 African Regional Science, Technology and Innovation Forum next week, with the hope of securing funding to introduce new features.

Ncediso™ is a mobile app designed to make health care and medical information more accessible to those with limited or no medical training.

This includes upskilling community health-care workers, including nurses and clinic practitioners, in areas where basic health care, first-aid skills and clinics are scarce.

NMU’s Centre for Community Technologies head, professor Darelle van Greunen, said the app, with more than 4,000 downloads since its launch in late 2018, was not meant to replace physical consultations with medical practitioners but aimed at providing assistance in dealing with emergencies and identifying illnesses.

“We have found that the app has evolved from being used by community health-care workers in remote areas to general members of the public because it offers a lot of first-aid tips and hints that guide one [on] what to do if they are, for instance, in a remote area and bitten by a snake.

“The app does not give a full medical diagnosis but it makes a recommendation that you ought to go and see a health-care professional,” Van Greunen said.

The app allows for the early detection of various disabilities and diseases among children and helps with child nutrition, chronic disease management, information on infectious and non-infectious diseases, first aid and various other conditions.

Van Greunen said the app was tailored for use on the African continent, with information on diseases and medication that can be found in Africa.

“We do a lot of work in health-care environments where we speak to community health-care workers, specifically in the remote and rural areas of the Eastern Cape, and we identified that there’s really a need for people who live in those areas to be upskilled in some ways but they don’t always have access to training courses.

“An app like this helps upskill them and serves as a lookup tool to give them access to the latest information.”

She said the information contained in the app was from publishers of medical textbooks, reworked to suit the app and checked and approved by a team of medical doctors.

The app has been selected among innovations, both technological and non-technological, that are contributing significantly to the attainment of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, to showcase at the event by the UN’s Economic Commission on February 24.

Van Greunen said she hoped to get funding to introduce a live interaction feature, where users will be able to get assistance from health-care professionals in real time.

“We want to introduce a live video link so that users can communicate with professionals who can guide them on what to do once they have identified what the medical emergency may be,” she said.

Ncediso™ can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.

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