SwitchPoint 2014 Winners

Last year’s submissions came in from all over the world and their ideas combined Braces to Treat Clubfoot + Low Cost Plastic Toys; SMS + Support Groups; GoogleGlass + Burn Treatments; Open Source Education to Promote Collaboration and Cooperation. Here are the winners of the SwitchPoint 2014 Student contest:

First Prize:

This year's winners Ian Connolly and Jeffrey Yang, from Stanford University developed the MiracleFeet brace. 


Synergic Runner Up:

Lauren Wall from UNC Gillings School of Public Health partnered with MiracleFeet as well.  Read her entry below.

SMS to Increase Treatment Adherence + Clubfoot Support Groups

Clubfoot is a congenital birth defect that occurs 1 in every 750 live-births worldwide.  Without treatment, clubfoot leads to life-long disability.  Parent non-compliance and treatment non-adherence are the biggest obstacles to successful clubfoot treatment with the Ponseti Method, a non-surgical treatment which lasts for four years.  miraclefeet partnered with the Standord and used Human-Centered Design to understand the needs of mothers with children undergoing clubfoot treatment. 

Focus groups, home visits, and interviews with mothers of children with clubfoot revealed feelings of isolation and perceived lack of social support.  In person and online clubfoot treatment support groups, which have been popular for over ten years, often fill these gaps for mothers, but mothers enrolled in miraclefeet treatment programs often lack access to internet and live in distant, rural communitiesmiraclefeet’s switchpoint was combining the technology and increased treatment adherence effect of SMS, as seen, for example, with antiretroviral treatment adherence, with the supportive environment fostered in online clubfoot treatment support groups.

miraclefeet has developed a standard SMS bank with specific order and timing of messages to address unique needs at different points of the clubfoot treatment process.  Messages include general information about clubfoot, advice and tips for caring for a child with clubfoot, and messages of encouragement that are common on internet-based clubfoot support groups which can be culturally adapted for each miraclefeet partner site by expert review and focus groups.  Using SMS enables miraclefeet to create a supportive environment for all mothers, regardless of where they live.  Messages also include adherence and appointment reminders.  miraclefeet is currently conducting monitoring and evaluation, which includes perceived support and treatment compliance, on the pilot program in Nicaragua and preparing and adapting a new program for Maharastra, India with MedicMobile and CURE International India Trust.


IVR Junction or Voice Twitter for the Developing World
Social Media Platform for the Next Billion People
Aditya Vashistha, University of Washington

77% of the world’s 6.8 billion mobile subscribers live in the developing world. However, in many developing countries, smartphone penetration is still in single digits. For example, in India, only 5% of the population use a smartphone and only 16% have access to the Internet. Moreover, 26% of the Indian population is illiterate. These challenges mean that a majority of the ‘next billion’ marginalized people in India and other developing countries still rely on voice calls made using a basic or feature phone to meet their information and communication needs and are thus unable to reap the benefits of the Internet and social media revolution. My research focuses on understanding the information and social media needs of low-literate low-income marginalized people in the developing world and the barriers that they face in connecting with the rest of the world.

I have designed and developed IVR Junction, a free and open source software tool that facilitates the creation of scalable, distributed and intuitive voice forums, akin to “voice Facebook” or “voice Twitter” for marginalized communities. IVR Junction provides global reach to the voices of disadvantaged people in the developing world. Using IVR Junction, callers can record and listen to posts using basic mobile phones and the global community can listen to their voices on Facebook and YouTube. IVR Junction has a distributed architecture that enables affordability, scalability, flexibility and robustness to regional outages. IVR Junction is already impacting the lives of thousands of people in countries like India, Somaliland and Mali. Almost 15,000 people have collectively made 50,000 calls to voice forums deployed using IVR Junction. These people have stayed connected for almost 3000 hours while consuming and contributing social media posts. IVR Junction has been used by the Government of Somaliland for civic engagement, Voice of America for citizen journalism and feedback, and by women rights activists to run a voice petition campaign in response to the 2012 Delhi Gang Rape incident.

The interaction with SwitchPoint attendees will help us improve our research and appropriate IVR Junction to other challenging scenarios

Google Glass and  Burn Treatment in the Developing World
Pranati Panuganti, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

So what’s all this hype for Google Glass about anyways? It’s great we can take a picture with the wink of an eye or make a hands‐free video call half‐way across the world. As intriguing as these functions sound, I want to know how we can use Google Glass to help solve real world problems for people with disabilities. I proposed the idea to Google last summer and won the “If I had Glass…” contest. Now that I have Google Glass, my team and I are pursuing a number of projects at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Medical Center, one of the busiest burn centers in the nation. Our goal is to help burn patients with disabilities using Glass technology. Since 95% of burn injuries occur in the developing world, the UNC Burn Center has developed a Burns Unit at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi. Because of the critical shortage of burn experts in Malawi, telemedicine could use a “convergence of optical technologies” to improve healthcare in this resource poor setting. With this in mind, Kiser et al at UNC conducted a study at KCH, Malawi. They found that digital photography, a rudimentary form of telemedicine, is an acceptable alternative to bedside clinical examination in assessing burn patients.

This brings me to my Switchpoint idea: What if we used Google Glass as a form of “optical technology” to improve burn care at the KCH Burns Unit in Malawi?

The idea would be to initiate communication through photographs and video calls to coordinate medical care from the resource-poor clinic in Malawi with the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC. Glass allows for simple video call assessments with the command: “Okay Glass, make a video call”. Additionally, the technology offers hands-free usage, allowing clinicians to maintain focus on treatment and sanitation.

My switchpoint idea offers an innovative and transformative solution to improve global healthcare using advanced technology. Its value to developing countries could be tremendous, allowing practitioners who are more experienced in burn care to provide medical attention to areas where burn care access is minimal.

mHealth Cervical Cancer App Developed in Kenya
Nickson Nyakambi

I am 20 years and as a concerned youth I have a strong concern in health systems. It follows that I am a medical student and I develop mobile and web Apps. As the project lead at mHealth Solutions Center, a Kenyan Health/ICT Startup that innovates, designs and develops ICT solutions addressing acute problems in the African health system, my research interests are how we can leverage innovative mHealth technologies that take advantage of the high penetration of cellular services in Africa to provide innovative health solutions to marginalized communities. Prior to joining med school, I used to develop games and Apps. After getting to med school I gained interest researching and developing health Apps, with a main focus on Cancer and Maternal Child Health.

In today’s complex word, there is an urgent need for low-cost, easy-to use tools that can accurately help in early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. My SwitchPoint is to develop a mobile phone application to be used by women and providers in rural, low-resource settings that provides local, rapid and accurate risk assessment, treatment advice for cervical cancer and transmits information to clinics for remote identification of women at risk, subsequent screening and treatment of cervical cancer.

This daring technological solution integrates an intelligence system and a telemedicine module, to overcome the barriers produced by, disparity in distribution of health services, lack of skills, distance and resources. The identification of women at the highest risk of developing cervical cancer is based on predisposing factors that can be predicted with the Phone App.

My silo bursting SwitchPoint will substantially reduce the mortality from cervical cancer and the incidence of invasive disease in Kenya. mHealth has the potential to create an environment of women who are health conscious thus more likely to have use screening services. There are both opportunities and burdens for nurses and midwives working in primary health care settings. By harnessing widespread availability of cellular services in Kenya, mHealth empowers health workers and women themselves to rapidly and reliably identify those at risk, and take action before complications arise.

Revolutionizing Education the Open Source Way
Suranga N. Kasthurirathne, Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing

Many educational systems, notably those in Asia, promote a competitive atmosphere which encourages students to work individually.  Students are typically ranked in in terms of narrow academic goals, which encourages students to focus on theoretical concepts and academic results, as opposed to applying hands-on learning for practical purposes. There is little evidence to show that competitive educational systems bring demonstrable benefits[1], especially as the world moves from the information age to an age of participation and co-creation. Continuous pressure and a negative mindset focused towards interpersonal competition may lead to health problems.[2]

Parallels can be drawn between these problems and competitiveness in the software industry.  Rival companies aggressively compete against each other to develop proprietary software, spending ever more resources preventing competitors from adopting their ideas. The technology industry has countered this approach using the concept of free and open source software development--allowing people to share ideas, technology, and solutions. These people work together in the spirit of the African concept 'ubuntu', the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects and improves all humanity.

These lessons present an innovative solution to alleviate the problems caused by competitive educational culture:

CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACTIVE PARTICIPATION BY STUDENTS. Introduce curriculum and learning outcomes that require students to seek out and collaborate with other experts, provide responsible criticism, and step beyond the boundaries of traditional course curricula.

CREATE LEARNING PROJECTS THAT ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO ASSIST EACH OTHER TOWARD THE SAME GOALS. Cooperation on a project often involves work division at the expense of helping others, but collaborative work keeps students focused on helping each other toward success. Structure projects so students openly share and discuss individual contributions, while criticizing and improving upon work of their peers. Promote the notion that failure is caused by the inability to recover from errors, rather than being caused by errors themselves.

EVALUATE STUDENTS BY PRIORITIZING INPUT OVER OUTPUT. While 'traditional' intelligence is important in problem solving, in an age of participation and co-creation, the ability to communicate and collaborate with peers is even more valuable. Grading systems should evolve to reflect this reality.

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[1] Johnson DW, Johnson RT, Smith KA, Cooperative learning returns to college. What evidence is there that it works?. Change. July-August 1998.pp 26-35 [2] Shaikh BT, Kahloon A, Kazmi M, Khalid H, Nawaz K, Khan N, et al.

Students, stress and coping strategies: A case of Pakistani medical school. Educ Health (Abingdon)2004;17:346-53.

SwitchPoint 2014 Student Contest is Closed

The SwitchPoint Student Contest is about finding new ways to spark innovations that will save lives around the world. We challenge you to think across boundaries, to see everyday objects in new ways, and to channel your ingenuity to address some of the many global health and humanitarian challenges we face today.

College and graduate students everywhere were invited to submit a switchpoint and win a chance to present their ideas on stage at SwitchPoint 2014. What’s a switchpoint? It’s what happens when you take a good idea that works in one field and combine it with another, thus creating a unique solution to a real-world problem.

Think human organs + 3D printing. Hip hop + family planning. Chocolate + peanut butter.

What is your SwitchPoint?

How to participate

Participants shared an essay of up to 350 words or a video no longer than 90 seconds describing or demonstrating their switchpoint and how it could make a difference.

Use the SwitchPoint Reader to find great ideas, people, and tools to help boost your creativity.


Get inspired

Use #SwitchPoint on Twitter and Instagram when uploading your ideas, pictures, and videos. We’ll be scanning all channels for great submissions!


Our amazing panel of judges will select the top entry for silo-busting imagination and potential. If your entry is selected, we will invite you to present your idea at SwitchPoint 2014 in the exciting lightning round. We will cover your expenses including travel, meals, and hotel accommodations. Plus you will attend the full conference and concert on us and have access to speakers and VIP events.

IntraHealth + Pfizer Global Health Fellows = SwitchPoint

Our thanks to Pfizer Inc.

Silo Busters is made possible by the generous support of Pfizer’s Global Health Fellows Program, which celebrated a decade of programming in 2013. The program is a true switchpoint for making the world a healthier place.

Pfizer Global Health Fellows is Pfizer’s signature international corporate volunteerism program through which the company pairs Pfizer colleagues with leading international health organizations to strengthen health service delivery. Fellows are immersed in three- to six-month specialized assignments, working hand-in-hand with community-based partners to help improve health care systems while gaining new perspectives on global health challenges and how the public and private sectors can work together to address them. Since 2003, close to 350 Pfizer colleagues from 25 sites around the world have participated in the program, donating an estimated 340,000 hours of skills-based volunteerism valued at more than $450 million in service with local partners throughout the developing world. In 2014-2015 the Global Health Fellows program will work with 11 partner organizations focusing on optimizing supply chains, scaling-up disease prevention programs (such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases), and business development functions in key emerging markets, namely West Africa, China, and Southeast Asia.


By submitting your entry to the SwitchPoint Student Contest, you are granting permission to SwitchPoint and IntraHealth International to use your content on the following websites: SwitchPoint, the SwitchPoint Reader, IntraHealth International, and associated Facebook, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, Projeqt, and Twitter accounts. Your name, idea, and likeness may be used in associated blogs, press, and advertising related to the SwitchPoint Student Contest and conference. Submissions will be made public and may be presented at the SwitchPoint Conference.

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