Associates and students at UNM’s Health Sciences Center have developed a smartphone app that engages visual aids to teach how to prevent injuries and hazards to children in the household.
The app stems from the Child Ready Program, which was made possible through a federally funded grant awarded to New Mexico and border regions of Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Mexico.
The goal is to engage with local communities and tribes to invent, plan, and disperse pediatric emergency care specifically catered to local factors.
A small tech team of graduate students worked under Robert Sapien, professor of emergency medicine, and Joan Caldwell, pediatric nurse and graphic designer.
Robert Sapien, professor emergency medicine, and Joan Caldwell, a pediatric nurse and graphic designer, worked on the app's development with two UNM graduate students -- Satyanarayana Gopu and Kishore Vaddineni.
Sapien said feedback at community meetings guided the idea behind the app, as families were asked if they felt ready to take care of their children in the event of a serious illness or injury.
As a result of this feedback, injury prevention stood out as an area that called for action.
New Mexico’s children have a higher risk of injury because of the social climate, according to Sapien and state data, affecting rates of childhood well-being and impoverishment.
“Anytime you have social determinants of health such as poverty and lack of education, that contributes to poor health in general,” he said. “That puts the child at risk for more injuries.”
Another major issue they are addressing in this state is lack of availability of resources in rural areas, Sapien said, adding that native children are at an even higher risk of injury over the general population.
To combat this, a Virtual Pediatric Emergency Department Telehealth Network program was invented as a teaching tool for clinicians in rural areas who can benefit from a simulated presence. This program also eliminates the need for families in these rural communities to travel to the city for healthcare.
The safety app available to the public has an open visual layout that can be taken on tour, further into each room of the house — as well as outside — with potential danger spots dotted with hazard icons.
Caldwell said she came up with the idea after using 3-D software she developed to design her own home.
There are 88 items that can be harmful to children, she said, as she has seen almost all of them and their consequences firsthand, which have the potential to be disabling and even fatal.
“From burns to drowning in a bucket of water, to moms curling their hair — children are being drowned in the bathtub by being left alone,” Caldwell said. “A child died eating a grape.”
Caldwell also sees injuries outsides the household; for example, if a child stays outside the home or with a relative who may not have recently or often taken care of children.
Caldwell also said she knows that education is most efficient through the use of visuals.
“If I gave you a list of all the things that were a problem in your home, you would probably skim through and wouldn’t comprehend it,” Caldwell said. “So having a visual plan to go through each one, not only do you remember it, you actually see what it looks like and somehow your brain remembers. It’s so much more effective.”
According to Caldwell, many children that die of injuries are actually quite healthy.
“Kids don’t die of natural causes often, they die of a lot of injuries because children require supervision,” Caldwell said.
“We’re always trying to educate but we really hope that this makes a difference overall because I think that we miss a lot,” Caldwell said. “We’re really trying to reach those situations because children really deserve to have a healthy life.”
Caldwell said she’s eager to see this tool widely used so it can reach families that can truly benefit from it.
“I have visions of pediatricians offices having handouts, every time a baby is born the family gets a flyer saying ‘download now,’” Caldwell said. “Even discharge instructions.”
The Child Home Ready Safety Tool App is available for download on Google Play and is currently being developed for iOS, set to be completed by the end of the year.
Sapien said Telehealth is not just for pediatric emergencies — even the simplest questions can be asked.
“A lot of times people think of ‘oh this kid’s really sick, we’ll use Telehealth,” Sapien said. “But we want it to be used if they have a regular question about the child. ‘What do you think this rash is?’ They don’t have to be critically ill to give my opinion of what that rash is, so that’s how we’re constructing it.”
Sapien said because of the amount of detail and content, the app is a tremendous asset.
“I’m the principal investigator for the grant on the project, but it’s really the tech team and Joan Caldwell that spearheaded this,” Sapien said. “They did incredible work and it has so much content in there. It has the potential to really save some lives.”
Sarah Trujillo is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sarahtweets_abq.