Dispatch from Kenya: Making progress

Student Dispatch from Kenya Series

A group of students from seven Penn State Colleges are spending part of the summer in Nyeri, Kenya to work on three humanitarian engineering and social entrepreneurship projects, Mashavu, WishVast and Eco-Village. These projects seek to bring technology to people in this region and demonstrate how it can affect their lives in positive ways. In this excerpt, Mashavu team members James Mesta, Anthony Zmoda and Jonathan Sauer talk about the potential of the Mashavu system.

The Mashavu team, who recently met with Margaret Ngure, the Chief Nursing Council of Kenya, was surprised to learn that there are currently a large amount of unemployed nurses in Kenya. Many of these nurses are having a difficult time finding employment. This brought up an interesting discovery: Many of these nurses who are qualified and willing to work could serve as Mashavu kiosk operators. After previously meeting with many nurses and doctors who would be assessing the case from the Web site, the team found that the kiosk operators must be qualified and certified nurses. Mashavu could serve as an effective solution that addresses the problem of unemployed nurses in Kenya.

Further discussions with Ngure revealed that Mashavu has potential to be used as a public health tool in a number of ways. Currently, the Kenyan government administers free vaccines in hospitals. Ngure suggested that a Mashavu station could be used to administer these vaccines because qualified nurses would be working at them. This would save the patient time and money if they do not live near a hospital. Ngure stressed the importance of preventative health and if Mashavu were to evolve into a working system a long-term plan must be developed with an emphasis on preventing disease and illness. One suggestion was to host awareness for a specific ailment (e.g. HIV/AIDS) every month to get the community engaged and educated on important health topics.

Meanwhile, a team consisting of Anthony Zmoda, Khanjan Mehta, their driver Kabu and Sister Purity embarked on a trip to scout out the site for a second Mashavu community testing center in Endarasha. The goal of the trip was to introduce themselves to the staff members at the clinic where Mashavu was to be held, and explain to them what resources would be required to set up. They also needed to go over specific details about what Mashavu offered the community. The site was both indoors and outdoors, and sufficiently covered if it was to rain. There was adequate seating for a line of people, even if the number of patrons we encountered exceeded our capacity. They would able to put bio engineering devices in separate rooms, which would aid the flow of patients quickly and effectively. The team was told that it wasn’t going to be a busy day when they were supposed to be setting up, so they knew that the crowd would be easy to control. The team left the site feeling confident with the facility.

Lastly, the Web development team, along with parts of the bio engineering and education teams, was busy traveling to the local private hospital, Outspan. The reason for this trip was to gain and understand relevant information regarding healthcare in Kenya, through the local doctor’s eyes. They were able to gather a plethora of information regarding the kiosk system, the doctor interface system (iPath - telemedicine interface), and the pulse rate device. Some relevant data collected was: necessary vital statistics needed to diagnose a patient, relationship between the caregiver and the doctor, pertinent steps to gain permission for testing the Mashavu system while avoiding confrontation from the government and qualifications for the caregivers who are utilizing the kiosk.

Last Updated June 25, 2009