The Innovation Fellows Competition was launched in August this year in collaboration with the Innovation Hub in Pretoria, with the goal of unlocking local talent and addressing regionally relevant challenges in healthcare.
The hearScreen mHealth solution makes widespread systematic hearing testing possible by providing a cost-effective, sustainable smartphone application that provides clinically valid tests and can be operated by generalist health personnel (e.g. community healthcare workers) along with cloud-based data management and referral systems linking patients to services.
Recent WHO estimates indicate that there are 360 million persons in the world with disabling hearing loss (5.3% of the world’s population). The prevalence of disabling hearing loss in children is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Approximately one-third of persons over 65 years are affected by disabling hearing loss with the prevalence being highest in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. With less than one hearing health provider to every million people in Africa, prospects for affected individuals are dire. Access to systematic hearing screening services is also unavailable in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“We are extremely honoured that Philips has recognised our hearScreen mHealth solution as an innovation that can help many people live more fulfilling lives,” said De Wet Swanepoel, inaugural Innovation Fellows Competition winner and professor in the department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria. “Winning the Philips Innovation Fellows competition will help us make widespread systematic hearing testing possible, particularly within underserved communities, through this cost-effective, sustainable solution that can be operated by laypersons in primary health care contexts.”
The hearScreen mHealth solution was selected as the winner from an impressive Top-5 contingent and will receive Rand two-hundred thousand (R200 000) as a research and development grant towards the development and production of his technology. Swanepoel will also undergo a one year fellowship during which Philips will assist him by offering business advice on how to launch, market, and sell his product. During this time, Eddine Sarroukh, Head of Research, Philips Africa will be his mentor.
The other 2015 Innovation Fellows finalists included:
· iMobiMama, an IT platform and Mobile Kiosk from Carol Thomas that can increase access to maternal care.
· A low-cost portable mechanical non-invasive continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) ventilator from Sudesh Sivarasu that is mechanically operated and can be used to tackle Asthma in children aged five to 10 years old.
· Ragesh Pillai, whose aim was to tackle the challenge of improving diabetes management through a software service designed to facilitate remote monitoring and communication between patients and their care givers at low cost.
· Dean Hodgskiss’s solution aimed to increase the capacity of healthcare workers and medical equipment at primary healthcare sites through the utilisation of a mobile communication app specifically developed to operate effectively under the challenging African telecommunications conditions.
Each of these finalists received a cash prize of Rand twelve thousand (R 12 000).
“In the beginning of the year, Philips South Africa conducted an Innovation Research study, which indicated that sixty per cent (60%) of South Africans consider themselves to be innovators; we launched the South African Innovation Fellows Competition in collaboration with The Innovation Hub, Pretoria to support South Africans to showcase their own tangible innovations that can fundamentally change and improve the lives of others.” says JJ Van Dongen, Senior Vice President and CEO Philips Africa. “We were delighted by the response to the competition and the quality of work submitted by the Top-5 finalists was truly inspirational. We are now looking forward to turning De Wet Swanepoel’s winning entry into a healthcare solution that will make a real and impactful difference in the lives of impacted people across Africa.”