Imagine a world without reminders, or any nudge to give you a cue on things you must do. There would be a lot of things left undone or a lot of delayed processes. That’s why we have DStv reminding you when your subscription is due and to re-subscribe; telcos reminding you of your airtime so you can reload your phone, and so on. Yet again, imagine having a simple bracelet that can remind mothers when to take their children for vaccination when it is due till they complete their immunization visits/schedule.
Introducing the Alma Sana vaccine reminder bracelet! The Alma Sana vaccine reminder bracelet was recognized and awarded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Save the Children as a healthcare innovation that can stimulate uptake and demand for immunization, and help reduce deaths in children under five years old. Alma Sana is one of four worldwide interventions and the only winner in Africa this year to have won a share of the fourth Healthcare Innovation Award (HIA) from global healthcare company GSK, and Save the Children. The $100,000 award was received on behalf of Alma Sana by Dr. Shola Dele-Olowu, the Managing Director of Direct Consulting and Logistics (DCL) Limited – the implementing partner of the Alma Sana project.
The Alma Sana innovation uses simple bracelets to empower mothers by presenting them with a constant reminder of their baby’s vaccination schedules through symbols embedded in the bracelet. Thus turning their babies’ ‘jewellery’ into a vaccine calendar and check-list. The bracelets, designed by mothers and nurses, are low cost, waterproof, durable, baby safe, and intended for low-income parents. Since the bracelet’s immunization reminders are represented through symbols and not words, they are suitable for both literate and non-literate parents. This makes it very easy for parents to understand their children’s vaccination records and return on time for subsequent vaccinations.
The ceremony which took place on the 25th of May in Abuja, Nigeria was moderated by Mrs. Chika Offor, CEO of Vaccine Network for Disease Control and member of the civil society organization (CSO) coalition, Women Advocates for Vaccine Access (WAVA). The award was presented by British High Commissioner, Paul Arkwright, who in his opening remarks, reiterated the commitment of the British government in helping Nigeria to improve its healthcare. He noted the bracelet is a simple innovation that will save children’s lives because it is easy to use and understand even among un-educated communities. To quote him, “The best ideas are often the simplest ideas, and the simplest ideas are often the best ideas.”
While giving his remarks on ‘’How can innovation play a role in supporting our health system?”, MD, GSK Pharmaceuticals Nigeria Limited, Bhushan Akshikar, highlighted that the Healthcare Innovation Award (HIA) was specifically designed with the understanding that those closest to a complex problem are best placed to design solutions to solve them. The successful implementation of this project will go a long way to support the Nigerian government to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in line with this administration’s recently launched Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). He also stated GSK is looking forward to the commencement of the pilot.
Similarly, Deputy Country Director of Save the Children, Babatunde Ojei, who spoke on “Engaging children and young people in health delivery as part of innovation” stated that immunization is one of the world’s most powerful tools for reducing under-five mortality and morbidity. He also said that Alma Sana selected Nigeria for their next program because of its poor vaccination rates and its large population. He noted that it was a fantastic innovation which can, and should be replicated across Nigeria to support hard-to-reach mothers and children to access immunization.
A special guest at the event was Her Excellency, Wife of the Senate President, Founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and WAVA Champion, Mrs. Toyin Saraki. She stated that the bracelet would help educate mothers on the need to immunize their children, and give them a sense of belonging and accountability for the wellbeing of their children. Her Excellency also explained that one of the problems faced with vaccinations is that mothers tend to forget to take their children for immunization. She said the Alma Sana bracelet should help tackle that since the bracelet would be worn on the child from the first set of vaccinations (at birth) till after the last set of vaccinations under the Nigerian routine immunization schedule (at 9 months). In her words, “The bracelet will deal with the problem of timeliness, completion of vaccine doses and that of wider coverage to know the extent immunization has been covered in a locality.”
With this grant, Alma Sana Nigeria through the DCL team will be piloting a randomized control trial (RCT) to assess effectiveness and operational feasibility of the reminder bracelets at improving vaccine coverage, timeliness and completion.
The event was covered by over eleven press organizations. See the publication by the Guardian Newspaper.
Written by DCL implementing team of Alma Sana Nigeria: Shola Dele-Olowu, Ifeyinwa Martins and Ebube Nwaononiwu