International recognition for the Department of Engineering Science's EWH team

The Department’s Engineering World Health (EWH) team led by Dr Gari Clifford, researching low-cost blood pressure measurement technology, has won the Best Innovation Leveraging Technology Award in the international Dell Social Innovation Challenge – a prize of $10,000 to help bring the device to market.

Engineering World Health (EWH) team
Pictured from left to right: Carlos Arteta, Mauro Santos, Gari Clifford, Marco Pimentel, João Domingos.
This prestigious Award is the result of a successful collaboration between one of the Engineering World Health teams at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation, in the Department of Engineering Science and AfyaZima, a company set up by Idris Bello who studied on Oxford’s Global Health MSc Course, and at the Saïd Business School.

With 1.5 billion people in the developing world at the risk of hypertension (that translates to about 1 out of every 4 adults), the device (known as BPmCuff for the competition) is a low-cost system, which allows blood pressure to be measured easily and accurately, either in the home or in a hospital setting. Transmission is via a mobile phone, which allows early diagnosis of hypertension.

Globally, 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 with 75% of the people affected living in developing countries. Untreated, uncontrolled, and unmonitored hypertension increases the risk of damage to the arteries, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiac illnesses.

Barriers to the treatment of hypertension in developing countries include limited access to low cost accurate blood pressure monitors, lack of detailed data on variation of blood pressure readings over time, and lack of training on how/when to take reliable blood pressure readings.  Expensive devices are more likely to have had their accuracy validated, but it is hard to find a correctly validated low-cost device.

BPmCuffCosting less than $15, the BPmCuff uses the mobile phone, a standard arm cuff and low-cost electronics to process high quality blood pressure measurements which are then transmitted via USB to the phone, where they are analysed, stored and sent to a physician or to central medical records. Last year the EWH team won the Engineering World Health design prize for a prototype of the system.

Dr Clifford said: “This new award is extremely exciting for the team, and will give us the opportunity to push forward with new business models around open source technology. In a market which focuses on IP, we are attempting to drive down costs and increase transparency for medical devices. I am also excited to see our team collaborating across disciplines to realise the potential of novel designs, which leverage both traditional approaches and new technology.