By Mary Beth Gallagher
The world is facing a maternal health crisis. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 810 women die each day due to preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Two-thirds of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. In Rwanda, one of the leading causes of maternal mortality is infected Cesarean section wounds.
An interdisciplinary team of doctors and researchers from MIT, Harvard University, and Partners in Health (PIH) in Rwanda have proposed a solution to address this problem. They have developed a mobile health (mHealth) platform that uses artificial intelligence and real-time computer vision to predict infection in C-section wounds with roughly 90 percent accuracy.
“Early detection of infection is an important issue worldwide, but in low-resource areas such as rural Rwanda, the problem is even more dire due to a lack of trained doctors and the high prevalence of bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics,” says Richard Ribon Fletcher '89, SM '97, PhD '02, research scientist in mechanical engineering at MIT and technology lead for the team. “Our idea was to employ mobile phones that could be used by community health workers to visit new mothers in their homes and inspect their wounds to detect infection.”