Researchers from the German Jordanian University and the Anglia Ruskin University in the UK are developing a respiratory rate wearable sensor for infants to enable quicker and more accurate identification of conditions in areas with limited access to health care services.
Professor Dingchang Zheng from the Anglia Ruskin University and Professor Ala’aldeen Al-Halhouli from the German Jordanian University are leading the new project after seeing the impact of poor access to respiratory monitoring in the Zaatari refugee camp, which is close to the northern border of Jordan with Syria.
“Respiration rate is one of the most important vital signs, which contributes in identification of many health problems and life threats especially in infants. However, respiratory rate is the least documented vital sign of all, due to lack in advanced and user-friendly monitoring systems, especially in low-setting areas such as refugee camps,” Professor Zheng told MobiHealthNews.
Studies carried out by the United Nations Refugee Agency, he added, indicated that a high number of infant deaths in the Zaatari refugee camp were due to "respiratory problems".
A factsheet published by the agency in March this year indicated that Zaatari was home to around 77,500 refugees, with almost a fifth under the age of five, and around 14,000 weekly health consultations.
“Other problems that have been reported are shortage of hospital beds and health care centers in that area, in addition to difficulties in reaching care in case of serious illness. These challenges created a serious need in developing a cheap, accurate and user-friendly device that enables wireless monitoring of respiratory rate,” Professor Zheng said.
The team is currently in the process of validating the first version of the prototype and are looking at methodologies to decrease the cost of the innovation and reduce its size.
“The user can wear the sensor on the chest,” Professor Zheng said. “Alternatively, we can use biocompatible adhesives to stick the sensor on the chest, allowing our innovative sensor to stretch and detect the respiratory volumetric changes while breathing.”
According to the Anglia Ruskin University, the project is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering through the Newton Fund, which is part of the UK’s official development assistance.
“The sensor will first be validated on healthy adults under different measurement conditions. We will then move to hospitals for validation on infants. Finally, it will be then tested in low-setting areas with the user feedback to be collected,” Professor Zheng explained.
The researchers will receive support from industry partners THERAPYAUDIT from the UK and Atlas Medical from Jordan to ensure it can then be “easily commercialised”.
“Our innovation will contribute in saving lives by developing cheap, accurate, and user-friendly wearable sensors with the integration of [a] remote monitoring platform for continuously monitoring of newborns' respiratory rate,” Professor Zheng added.