At Yale, student entrepreneurs aren’t just brainstorming new products and reshaping existing services. They’re saving infants’ lives with tiny, high-tech necklaces.
Khushi Baby, a new company that sprang from a Yale class project, is poised to protect thousands of babies in Northern India from disease. The student-run company was highlighted at a recent Association of Yale Alumni Assembly panel discussion, and the company has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a pilot program overseas.
Khushi Baby’s product is a digital necklace that contains an infant’s complete medical history and vaccination records. Physicians are able to view the digital information via existing, near-field communication technology and a mobile app created by the Yale students.
“I wanted to do something where I could make a scalable impact,” said Ruchit Nagar, ’15, a pre-med student and one of the founders of Khushi Baby.
Khushi Baby (which means “happy baby”) addresses the persistent problem of getting infants the vaccinations they need to prevent disease. Traditionally, families in rural areas of India have needed to obtain and constantly update a written document with their child’s vaccination information. Often, parents would lose or misplace such documents, and physicians at health clinics had no way to determine if a child had received a particular inoculation.
The problem of vaccination delivery was the focus of “Appropriate Technology in the Developing World,” a class co-taught by Joseph Zinter, assistant director of the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, and Bo Hopkins of CM Equity Partners. Each time the course is offered, it takes on a specific challenge.
As it stands currently, many non-governmental agencies in the developing world keep immunization data in paper log books, which are cumbersome, often outdated and tough to search through to find a particular child’s information. Coupled with the frequency of families losing their medical documents, it means community health care workers don’t know which vaccines to bring with them to immunization camps.
The Khushi Baby team — which included Nagar and 2014 graduates Ife Omiwole, Teja Padma, and Leen van Besien — tried to tackle the problem from an organizational and information tracking perspective. By putting data on a near-field communication chip, health care workers wouldn’t even need an Internet connection to access information via the mobile app.
The key was making the technology wearable — and adapting it to cultural norms in India. Earlier this year, Khushi Baby won Yale’s 2014 Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health, and the students used the $25,000 prize money to meet with families and clinicians in India to gather more information.
“We didn’t know we were going to be making a necklace,” Nagar said. Indeed, initial thought was to make the device a bracelet. But interviews in the field indicated that many infants in Northern India already wear necklaces that are symbolic of good health.
And the Khushi Baby necklace was born.
“Our first customer is always going to be the patient,” Nagar said. “It’s going to be the mother and it’s going to be the child.”
Khushi Baby hopes to raise $25,000 via Kickstarter, by Dec. 13. With the money, the student entrepreneurs will supply a partnering NGO with mobile phones that have the Khushi Baby app already installed. Nagar said that with a mere eight smartphones, the company can ensure more than 4,000 children in 100 immunization clinics get needed vaccinations.