Researchers at Nottingham University in the UK have produced a mobile phone app designed to identify which newborns are premature enough to need specialist care.
Ultrasound scanners are not always available in the developing world, so the date of conception is not always accurately calculated. But this smartphone app can determine the gestational age of newborn babies using distinctive features on their feet, face and ears to identify those who may need urgent medical care.
Michel Valstar is an assistant professor at Nottingham University’s school of computing: “It’s created to crowd-source as much data of as many babies as we possibly can to create an app that will automatically detect how old a baby is, in terms of gestational age. So it just opens the camera for you and gives an outline of where the face should be, or the ear should be, or the foot should be.”
Apps like these are used to identify all sorts of diseases these days, including some cancers .But it’s not just useful for individual babies. The app developers hope it can enable health organisations to identify pockets of premature births in remote areas.
Dr Don Sharkey is an associate professor of Neonatal Medicine at Queen’s Medical Centre at Nottingham University: “Actually what we could do is use information from the smartphone, uploaded to a central data base; it could tell us where the pockets of prematurity are and then we could think about interventions.So the World Health Organisation, the United Nations could then target that particular population knowing that it’s got a problem with very premature babies.”
The team also plans to explore possible differences in gestational development between babies born in different parts of the world.