A team of Ugandan engineers has invented a “smart jacket” that diagnoses pneumonia faster than a doctor, offering hope against a disease which kills more children worldwide than any other. The idea came to Olivia Koburongo, 26, after her grandmother fell ill, and was moved from hospital to hospital before being properly diagnosed with pneumonia.
Koburongo took her idea to fellow telecommunications engineering graduate Brian Turyabagye, 24, and together with a team of doctors they came up with the “Mama-Ope” (Mother’s Hope) kit made up of a biomedical smart jacket and a mobile phone application which does the diagnosis.
Pneumonia — a severe lung infection — kills up to 24,000 Ugandan children under the age of five per year, many of whom are misdiagnosed as having malaria, according to the UN children’s agency UNICEF. A lack of access to laboratory testing and infrastructure in poor communities means health workers often have to rely on simple clinical examinations to make their diagnoses.