Friday May 25, 2018

App for Indian women to understand contraceptive choices

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Washington: An Indian-American researcher from the Johns Hopkins University developed an app that is helping married Indian women in understanding contraceptive choices and using modern family planning methods within few months.

According to Sanjanthi Velu, Asia team lead at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Communication Programs (CCP), women who watched motivational videos on the app called “Gyan Jyoti” were 4.5 times more likely to use modern contraceptive methods than those who did not.

“This shows that mobile technology provides an innovative and dynamic platform for social and behaviour change communication,” Velu said.

“It can encourage conversations between women and frontline health workers that are interactive, culturally relevant, and personalised which lead to increased, sustained use of modern contraceptive methods,” he explained.

In one district of Bihar, smartphones loaded with the Gyan Jyoti app were given to 14 accredited social health activists (ASHAs), while in another district another 14 ASHAs were supplied with more low-tech SD cards.

Each set of ASHAs – community health workers – regularly visits roughly 1,400 rural women.

The ASHAs with the smartphone app were able to customise their family planning counselling, showing videos most appropriate to answer each woman’s particular questions.

Those ASHAs who had the SD card could show the videos, but did not have the benefit of customising their interaction.

The ASHAs using the app were also able to share the films via Bluetooth if the women had the technology, enabling the women to show it to their husbands or mothers-in-law at a later time.

The researchers randomly chose 406 women from each district to study in May 2015, five months after the app and the SD cards were made available to the ASHAs.

They found that 22 percent of women who were counselled with the app were using modern contraception such as IUDs, oral contraceptive pills and injectable contraception at the end of the study period while 13 percent of the women were using modern contraception in the district without the app.

Women who were visited by an ASHA during the study period were 1.9 times more likely to be using modern contraceptive methods.

More importantly, women who had watched the videos were 4.5 times more likely to be using modern contraceptives, no matter whether they were shown by an ASHA with the app or an SD card.

“Our research shows that there is value in developing targeted mobile platforms that can be customised depending on the needs of each provider and her clients,” Velu noted.

The app incorporates a variety of videos about family planning and modern contraceptive methods, including entertaining and educational films, testimonials from happy couples who are using contraception, question and answer videos with physicians and other information that aims to dispel myths and misconceptions.

According to Velu, the app can be adapted for different languages or other types of health information that families may need.

The findings were presented at the “International Family Planning Conference” in Nusa Dua, Indonesia on Thursday.(IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)