Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Can We Identify Illness in Newborns From Their Cry? (And Other Cool Ideas)

May 21, 2013

What if we had a way to detect specific illnesses in newborns just by analyzing the sound of their cries? Or (somewhat relatedly, perhaps?) there was a contraceptive that worked by slowing down the tails of sperm and was available at a low-cost, through a vaginal gel?

The Gates Foundation's "Grand Challenges Explorations" grant program never fails to offer up some of the most interesting, exciting ideas to improve global health around the world. Today we announced more than $8.1 million in new grants through this program - some for projects which are in development, some of which were presented as brand new ideas. All of which are ground-breaking.

In addition to the "Acoustical Newborn Diagnosis Tool" and the "Vaginal Gel to Inhibit Sperm Mobility" - both mentioned above, we're also funding communications campaigns designed to address the topic "Aid is Working. Tell the World." And, as you might expect, projects funded include some truly innovative ways of using social media tools (ie, Foursquare, crowdsourcing) in order to amplify the stories of those who most benefit from aid:

  • BeHere-BeThere Project: Christoph Nann of Serviceplan in Germany will test a simple method for raising awareness of development projects in developing countries using location-based network applications such as Foursquare, in collaboration with local retail partners, to connect consumers to projects.
  • Mobilizing the Unheard Voices of Aid Recipients: Arjun Venkatraman of Environics Trust in India and colleagues will use an Interactive Voice Response system to collect 10,000 personal narratives of the impact of aid programs in rural India and share them through social media channels.
  • Hactivating Development Aid: Charlotte Obidairo and team from Coxswain Social Investment plus in Tunisia will develop a crowdsourcing program that engages young people around the world to learn about global development challenges through first-person narratives, and offer solutions to real-life challenges identified by their peers.
Have your own idea you think just might help solve one the world's biggest global health challenges? Sign up for email updates here.

 
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