Malnutrition in children continues to be a significant global health concern, with almost one-half of all deaths in children under 5-years in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) attributable to malnutrition, sequentially leading to impaired growth and poor health outcomes. Impaired growth and development in children in LMIC is the result of poor nutrition and repeated infection from contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation, and has been associated with 5.4 billion cases of diarrhoea and 1.6 million deaths each year (Global Nutrition Report, 2018).
Therefore, the accurate and routine measurement of child growth is crucial in order to identify those children at the greatest risk of malnutrition and to enable effective intervention to prevent the related adverse health outcomes. However, this remains challenging in LMICs, with the majority of child growth measurement equipment in current use not being fit for purpose leading to misclassification of children for health monitoring purposes.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
The accuracy of length and height measurements is a particular concern as the tools typically used in LMICs – basic wooden or plastic boards and tapes – are the most susceptible to measurement error leading to misclassification of children for health monitoring purposes.
The portable stadiometers, the most used growth measurement device in LMIC, have the disadvantage of requiring manual reading and recording of height data, thus the process is subject to human error at multiple steps.
Recognising these limitations, UNICEF has published a Target-Product-Profile in November 2017 calling for the development of new state-of-the-art portable height/length measurement devices to support its child health programmes.
The ImpACTT project is focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2 and 3.
SDG 2.2: To eliminate malnutrition, with a special focus on achievement by 2025 of targets in relation to growth stunting in children under 5 years
SDG 3- global health and well-being: To strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular, LMIC, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.
In line with the Sustainable Development Goals and with funding from the Department of Economy, The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Internal Pump Priming Call, in turn building upon a much larger GCRF, UK Research and Innovation grant for the SAFEWATER project (EPSRC Grant Reference EP/P032427/1), the ImpACTT project team focussed on the development and evaluation of innovative child growth measurement (CGM) devices to improve the assessment of child growth globally.
HOW WILL OUR DEVICES HELP?
Improved Design Features
Our devices will support accurate child height/length measurements and readings by minimising the possibilities of human error in both measurement and data recording.
With the use of ultra-modern technologies such as ultrasonic and lazer sensors to efficiently and accurately measure (accuracy parameters ± 2mm) and automatically store one-off and longitudinal child growth data.
Our portable, user-friendly, light weight (around 5 kg) deceive operates on 5V battery which can be charged by 12V battery, mains and solar. Therefore, it has wider applicability including suitable to use in extreme remote areas of LMICs that are not connected with road and/or electricity network.
Our product is targeted to both healthcare and research organisations all around the world, particularly in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) such as UNICEF, World Health Organisation, hospitals, health centres and research institutes. The end-users are health professionals, researchers, community health volunteers and household survey data collectors.
Professor Helene McNulty
Principal Investigator and Professor of Nutritional Science, Ulster University