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Dental Research Interview: Dr. Azeez Butali, Department of Orthodontics

dr. azeez butali   

Dr. Azeez Butali’s Software App Will Reduce Childhood Mortality in Nigeria

Dr. Azeez Butali, Oral Pathology, Radiology and Medicine, and Dental Research, with Dr. Osayame Ekhaguere (a UI-trained pediatrician), founded Healthcare Trends, a nonprofit company. Through the company, Drs. Butali and Ekhaguere, who are both native Nigerians, have developed a software system for clinics in Nigeria so mothers can be reminded about upcoming appointments for their children in an organized, cost-effective process. The app will also assist in gathering data when a child is born (birth date, gender, phone number, e-mail address, date of discharge). Ongoing patient data can be compared with World Health Organization data that is standardized to assure that children are developing based on their age.

Q: What are some of the issues with childhood health in Nigeria?
A: Every day, 2,300 children in Nigeria die as a result of vaccine-preventable diseases (33% of them), 50% due to malnutrition, others due to other circumstances. In other words, 83% of the factors leading to mortality are preventable.

Q:  How did you come up with this idea of developing an app to increase the survival rate among Nigerian children?
A:  My partner and I submitted an application , which was not funded. In the course of writing the application, we conducted some research and realized that there are 95% of adults with a mobile phone, and if we are able to get information to them, that will be great. So that was the beginning of developing an app that can be used by the healthcare system to communicate with families. We tailored the app to address infant and under 5 mortality, which is a big problem in Nigeria and Africa.

Q: How will the app help increase the survival rate of Nigerian children?
A: Our app is an interactive app that sends reminders to mothers when their children are due for an immunization, well checks to monitor growth and development, and in special cases, like preterm and birth defects. It also sends information on how to prevent malnutrition and provide prenatal care to children in order to reduce infection and diseases. These messages are sent via the app to the mothers as phone calls and text messages. The phone calls are currently in English, pidgin English and the three major Nigerian languages (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba). We believe that by improving communication, we can reduce infant mortality…that’s our goal.

Q: How is the University of Iowa helping you implement your project?
A: We did not give up when our grant was not selected. We kept developing the app and in the spring of 2015, I shared the app project with Brad who thought it was a good project and took me to the UI Ventures at the VPR office . The initial plan was to get GAP funding and later SBIR grants to fully develop the app. The UI Ventures worked with me for over a year until we finally established a non-profit company: Healthcare Trends. They provided the staff to help with the administrative process and company development. Today we now have a non-profit to promote the app and we’ve started a crowd funding campaign called Help My Pikin , to raise initial funds to fully develop the app for use. Money that is raised will be used for the app’s maintenance and help lower the cost of its implementation. The software, they hope, will eventually be used to help other children in developing nations. The goal is to raise $10,000.

Drs. Butali and Ekhaguere were interviewed April 3 by the local Fox News channel. To watch the interview, go to: http://cbs2iowa.com/news/local/university-of-iowa-professor-starts-non-profit-healthcare-app.

To contribute to the Help My Pikin fund, go to: https://onemissionfundraising.com/fundraisers/help-my-pikin/#tab_fundraiser_profile.

A video about the campaign may also be viewed at: https://www.facebook.com/Help-My-Pikin-947438408643598.