New IMPALA project will develop a durable, affordable monitoring system for hospitalized children in low-resource settings

Every year, more than three million children in low-income countries die due to constraints in healthcare systems. The partners of the IMPALA project are collaborating to lower the staggering amount of preventable child deaths.

02/22/2021 | 11:46 AM

This interdisciplinary project will develop a sturdy, easy-to-use, affordable, high-tech monitor that can be implemented even in settings with limited resources and capacity. It will produce medically engineered mats that a child can lay on and detect changes in vital signs that may indicate serious illness hours before even highly trained healthcare workers would be able to identify the issue. As member of the international IMPALA consortium, Prof. Wendy Janssens will be leading the team that will evaluate the effectiveness of the monitor.

The idea for the IMPALA project began years ago when paediatic and intensive care specialist, Dr. Job Calis, was working in Malawi in the paediatric intensive care unit. He noticed that a significant percentage of children were dying from preventable causes. Medical engineering company Goal3 will be developing the mats and is conducting a crowdfunding campaign for the project. They are partnering with the Polytechnic department biomedical engineering of the University of Malawi to develop a system that meets local demands. 

The SBE is involved in the implementation and evaluation part of the project through the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD) – looking beyond the technical efficacy of the tool and analyzing how it works in practice in the given context. Prof. Wendy Janssens and her team will examine the effects of the monitoring system when implemented in a real-life setting through increasingly large pilot interventions from a social, behavioral, and economic perspective in addition to the medical evaluations.

The project builds on strong inter-university connections among the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam, as well as a collaboration with researchers in Malawi and the Imperial College London. It is part of the official collaboration signed in 2020 between the Emma Children’s Hospital of the Amsterdam University Medical Center and the College of Medicine Malawi. The European EDCTP pledged to grant a €3,44 million subsidy to the research proposal of the IMPALA consortium consisting of both academic and technology institutions. The project will accomplish the following objectives: 

  • It will further develop a tablet-assisted monitoring system suitable for paediatric care in hospitals allowing timely, lifesaving interventions; 
  • develop algorithms that predict critical illness based on vital signs and enhance the accuracy of these by combining vital signs with clinical data and/or biomarkers;
  • conduct extensive implementation research to identify key behavioral, social and other barriers to adoption of the system and implementation in a real-life setting; 
  • and design a multi-country random control trial assessing the impact of the monitoring device and implementation strategy on hospital paediatric survival.

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This project is part of the EDCTP2 Programme supported by the European Union.