Amy Yi, Tessa Day and Diane Kazlauski looked at public health programming across Uganda and saw something missing. Where many groups focus their work on preventing the spread of infectious diseases, the three CBS undergraduates wanted to work on an expanding issue of heart disease in patients primarily around the country’s capital of Kampala.
As part of a Grand Challenges Curriculum course on public health, Yi, Day and Kazlauski started a project called MoyoMate to take blood pressure screening devices to frequently used locations across Kampala. After working through their project in class, they took their idea to to the Acara Challenge, bringing home first place.
“Only approximately eight percent of Ugandans who have hypertension are diagnosed with the condition, and MoyoMate hopes to increase awareness of hypertension,” says Yi. “This is a problem that not even non-governmental organizations or the government have found a complete solution for, and that can sometimes make it very intimidating. However, when we won the award and received such positive support from working professionals, it was motivation to keep moving forward knowing that there isn't one solution to the problem.”
The Acara Challenge is an annual competition put on by the Institute on the Environment to encourage student groups to develop solutions to issues facing the world today. As first-place recipients of the undergraduate division, Yi, Day and Kazlauski received a $5,000 grant to get their MoyoMate project off the ground in Uganda.
“We have already established connections with local partners, and the next step of the project is to go to Uganda and run our pilot experiment,” says Kazlauski. “We want to learn more about the perceptions and understanding of hypertension within the community, as well as continue discussions and plan logistical details with our in-country contacts.”
While still in the beginning stages of working to get their public health efforts off the ground, the MoyoMate team sees the potential impact placing blood pressure kiosks across Kampala can make on the city.
“We believe the implementation of blood pressure kiosks in commonly frequented areas will provide a convenient way for individuals to measure their own blood pressure,” Day says. “Even if individuals don’t use the machine, we hope that seeing them in a local pharmacy would make individuals curious about blood pressure. The ability to know that the user has an abnormal blood pressure reading could motivate individuals to seek health treatment and motivate healthy lifestyle choices.”