Blood Pressure Project Wins Top Engineering World Health Award

Congratulations to the Department’s Engineering World Health Oxford Team, at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, which has won first prize in the annual Engineering World Health Design Competition for its Blood Pressure project. The competition, launched in 2009, is unique in being directed at the needs of developing country health care.

Engineering World Health Oxford TeamThe winning team, comprising: Carlos Arteta; Corentin Chiffot; Joao Domingos; Marco Pimentel; Arvind Raghu; Mauro Santos; David Springer (studying at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation for their DPhils and on their  MSc in Biomedical Engineering), and supervised by Dr Gari Clifford, has won first prize of $5,000 for an automated low-cost, easy-to-use blood pressure measurement device.

Costing just 5.00GBP, and available in seven languages, this device uses the mobile phone, a low-cost standard arm cuff and low-cost electronics to process good quality blood pressure measurements.  The blood pressure changes are transmitted via USB to the phone, where they are analysed, stored and uploaded to central medical records. It is hoped that this will help healthcare workers in developing countries accurately track medical information over long periods of time to address epidemic chronic problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure).

Blood pressure measurement deviceGlobally, hypertension is a major chronic disease and it is considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be a leading cause of death and disability in economically developing countries.  Untreated, uncontrolled and unmonitored hypertension increases the risk of damage to the arteries, heart attack, stroke, and is responsible for other conditions such as pre-eclampsia and other cardiac illnesses.

Blood pressure monitoringDr Gari Clifford, University Lecturer and Associate Director of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation, said: “For a device that focuses on blood pressure measurement to beat leading institutions like Johns Hopkins and Purdue University (whose competition entry focused on HIV) really shows you how the scientific and lay communities are becoming aware that chronic diseases are now a bigger issue than communicable diseases (due in part to the wonderful progress and on-going efforts in treating and preventing communicable diseases).

He added: “Mobile phones are now almost ubiquitous, with around 740 million mobile users in China alone, and over 98% of their population living in range of a cellular communications tower. Since most people have access to a mobile phone, it is now the cheapest method of recording and transmitting information to and from remote locations. The lack of trained healthcare workers in resource-poor regions together with the lack of medical records means that there is a strong case for delivering healthcare through telemedicine and mobile phones. We have developed a device that enables the phone to be used as a medical instrument which can provide usage (and decision) support for the healthcare worker or patient - moving healthcare towards a patient-centred model. I’m delighted the students’ endeavours have been recognised at an international level and I look forward to integrating this technology with the rest of my group's research in resource-constrained healthcare.

Acknowledgements: Engineering World Health, GSMA