Khushi Baby Wins $25,000 Thorne Prize

Khushi Baby, a team of undergraduate inventors, has been awarded Yale’s 2014 Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health. The award, consisting of a $25,000 cash prize, recognizes sustainable health innovations that have the potential for significant social impact.

The team’s product takes the silicone bracelets made popular by the LiveStrong Foundation and combines them with the same near-field communication chips used in college ID cards. The inexpensive result, which is waterproof and color customizable, allows infants to wear their entire vaccination record around their wrists, eliminating the need for mothers to keep a paper record that can be accidentally lost or destroyed. When an infant visits the healthcare worker for a checkup, the clinician is able to scan the Khushi Baby bracelet with a smartphone and immediately see which vaccinations the infant needs.

The communication chip also results in significant improvements for data that the clinicians need to improve their operational efficiency. Because Khushi Baby’s data is kept in the cloud, the vaccination data for an entire region can be aggregated in real-time, enabling healthcare workers and vaccine suppliers to forecast vaccination demand and ship appropriate supplies to each delivery point on time.

The team, consisting of Ruchit Nagar (MCDB ’15), Ife Omiwole (ECON ’14), Teja Padma (SOM ’14), and Leen van Besien (CHEM ’14), formed this past spring in “MENG 491: Appropriate Technology in the Developing World,” a class that focuses on different global-scale problem each time the class is offered. This semester (which we reported on earlier), the students faced the task of developing vaccine-related innovations that could help prevent the 1.5 million deaths that result each year from vaccine-preventable diseases.

While other teams focused on vaccine storage and delivery, Khushi Baby, which translates as “Happy Baby,” instead addressed the huge organizational difficulties faced by clinicians and parents as they document a child’s vaccination record. In many rural areas where public immunization rates are extremely low, there are no computer records or even electricity. Current methods for tracking vaccination history rely on paper forms that the parents must keep in good condition and must not lose; even healthcare workers use handwritten logbooks to record visits, which in addition to the same problems faced by parents, also cannot be easily referred to during future visits.

Khushi Baby intends to use the award money to continue development of their product in partnership with the nonprofit organization Seva Mandir. This summer, they will travel to India to meet with parents and clinicians to get feedback on how to improve Khushi Baby prior to commercial development.