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Health & Fitness

‘Take Pills Reminder’ App By South Africa Medical Students Makes WHO Competition Finalist

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The thing we need the most when we are sick is what we easily forget to take. Well, that may soon be a thing of the past. Two South Africa medical students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal have developed an app that will remind patients to take their pills regularly. Consequently, the students, Mohamed Hoosen Suleman and Kapil Narain made it to the 10 finalist.

The app was in response to a call by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on ways to curb the proliferation of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The organizations received a total of 163 entries from 40 different countries. However, the ‘take pills reminder’ by the South Africa medical students was one of those that stood out. According to the University of KZN,

“They have designed an innovative approach using cellphone-based technology to send automated alerts/reminders via text messages (SMS) to patients to take their medication on time. To date, there has been no technological intervention that specifically addresses poor patient compliance to antimicrobials.”

Understanding Antibiotics Resistance and its Implication to Humanity

Imagine a scenario where you take a drug for a particular illness and get well. However, a few months later you get ill from the same bacteria again. But this time, the previous drug fails to work. Bacteria pick up genes from their environment or modify theirs making them immune to antibiotics. The University of KZN further explains the severity of this problem,

“As bacteria develop the ability to stop the drugs used to treat them, we risk reverting back to a time when simple infections might become untreatable. By 2050, 10 million lives could be lost due to the growing worldwide threat of AMR.”

In developing countries, the rise of AMR usually arises from non-compliance to the drug regimen. Sometimes patients either forget or deliberately decide not to take their pills. This is particularly the case when the symptoms of the illness subside. Consequently, the bacteria adapt to the low concentration of the drug. With subsequent replications, there is a spread of resistance. This leads to the failure of treatment. In cases where there is no alternative treatment, the patient dies from the disease. Therefore, the ‘Take Pills Reminder’ by the South Africa medical students is highly valuable.

What Next for the ‘Take Pills Reminder’ App by South Africa Medical Students

In furtherance to the refinement of their app, Suleman and Narain were in a workshop in Geneva, Switzerland. The workshop will also help them to refine their proposal as well as build the capacity for its implementation. Consequently, the app will be customized to every patient’s needs. The South Africa medical students want to focus its implementation on low and middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Speaking of their workshop experience Narain said,

“Innovative, feasible and sustainable solutions with the mindset of ‘think global, act local’ are essential to combat AMR and prevent an era of superbugs in resource-limited settings such as Sub-Saharan Africa. Meeting and engaging with leading experts in the field of Public Health was an exhilarating experience.”

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