A 10-year-old child was labeled a dull kid in his school because he wasn’t performing well academically. Otherwise healthy, he seemed to know everything but could never perform well in his exams. It was only after the school adopted a preventive healthcare service that he was diagnosed with Dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing abilities. It manifests itself as troubles with putting thoughts on paper. Once diagnosed, the boy then underwent therapy and he now scores 90% in class.
This is just one example. Eighty per cent of all diseases today are preventable. Be it diseases in children with respect to sight, malnutrition, haemoglobin and refraction, or in middle age with respect to stress, hair loss or at an older stage, such as heart disease, strokes and more.
If we take care of them at the right age, 80% of the health issues people suffer from today, are preventable.
This is the huge problem Meghana Kambham has set out to solve with her startup Care N Grow (CNG) that has developed a patent-pending preventive healthcare platform.
Healthcare services in India, she says, are very fragmented. Screenings happen at a different place, interventions in another and then visiting a doctor for treatment happens at a different place. The total cost is often very high and unaffordable for most.
Moreover, in India, there is only one paediatrician for every 3,000 children, which isn’t enough for the sick.
“We have to target people at the right age, which is when they are young. And this can happen best at school where you can train them to change their lifestyles for the long term. The skills and habit changes have to come from school,” Meghana says.
How can these problems be solved?
Technology, is Meghana’s answer. CNG’s cloud-based preventive healthcare platform is deployed in schools and does screenings, interventions and analyses behavioural changes in children between the ages of 4 and 14.
It is a non-invasive process where children are screened for 40 parameters that include physical ones such as vitals, vision, dental, BM; developmental ones such as language skills, nervous system development and psychological ones such as social skills, depression.
There are questionnaires, health report cards, biomedical sensing, imaging technologies that are used to do the screenings.
The algorithm then uses the data collected, analyses it and produces a customised health report card. If there are any abnormalities, they are recognised by the system, which prescribes the best course of action for immediate treatment and even long-term behavioural changes to be adopted.
Apart from this, the schools are required to encourage good health habits, sometimes as simple as drinking enough water and simple physical exercises to make them habituated to a good lifestyle. This is done for 5-10 minutes after a class, several times through the day.
This is done every six months for every student, so there is continuous monitoring of their health and the kids’ medical records are stored for future care.
Solving the problem of lack of enough doctors, CNG’s platform is made so simple that any person that has basic school education can use the technology.
CNG hires and trains health coordinators for two weeks to carry out these examinations on a child.
“The teachers in the school or any lay person that has passed 12th standard can use our technology. This reduces dependency on skilled labour. All it takes is a basic training on how to use the platform and perform the screening,” says Meghana.
Solving the problem of cost, the technology, Meghana says is not more than a thousand rupees per kid per annum. This includes the screenings, inculcating behavioural change in school. Compared to the full body checkups that cost about Rs 30,000 every six months, this is extremely cost effective, she adds.
The children are also taught about the food they consume and their meals are inspected often to ensure they receive all required nutrients.
A teacher checking the nutritional status of children as a part of the Care N Grow programme
Every ten schools will have one senior health giver and every four schools will have one junior health coordinator. Every coordinator is given a tab with the platform built into it, which can be accessed only by that person.
All health coordinators are constantly tracked by CNG’s team to ensure that the school is following the procedures and carrying out the screenings and behavioural change exercises.
The technology, Meghana says, can also process any amount of data at a given time and hence is highly scalable.
At the moment, CNG has not commercially launched the platform and has only run pilots covering six thousand children across Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
The need for a service such as this was validated for CNG when the pilots showed that of the six thousand children, 40% had malnutrition, 20% had eye problems, and 10% were obese. There were also cases of stunted growth, type 1 diabetes, hypertension, hearing loss, skin diseases, and even hair lice.
Parents being counselled about their child's health as a part of the programme
In fact, CNG has been recognised by Microsoft and has been granted a patent pending status with the support of Microsoft’s #MakeWhatsNext program for women inventors who develop problem-solving solutions around the world.
The commercial launch will happen on November 14.
CNG also has a parent app that helps inculcate the same habits at home, not just for the kids but for the entire family. The entire app is gamified with points, levels to keep parents motivated. It also links with activities done at school for the parent’s knowledge.
Once the app is launched commercially, CNG is targeting 250 schools by next year, covering two lakh students. In three years, the aim is to reach at least 2,000 schools.
As the technology is further developed, Meghana hopes that the cost will further come down.
And to truly make a preventable healthcare service as comprehensive such as this, available to every school, CNG will be giving one subscription free for every three subscriptions.
“So this would mean that for every 3,000 students, 1,000 students can be taken care of, for free, which could even mean giving the service free to a government school,” she says.
This article has been produced with inputs from T-Hub as a part of a partner program.