UC baby health innovation wins Gates award

An innovative, colourful and accessible design to improve child health records worldwide has earned a University of Canberra graphic design lecturer a prestigious international award.

Dr Lisa Scharoun has been awarded a US$20,000 prize by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for her design of child vaccination records.

Her concept uses symbols, colour coding and wearable reminders to inform parents and health workers of the vaccination status of the child. It also features a double-sided health card with detachable bracelets and a hanging pouch to protect the card.

Selected from over 300 designs worldwide, Dr Scharoun’s design proposal won the ‘Ease of adding information’ category in the foundation’s ‘Records for Life’ competition. Her entry was also chosen as a top ten finalist overall during a ceremony held in Amsterdam last month. 

“This is such a prestigious award. I feel very lucky to have received it for such an important challenge: to make medical records easier to interpret and use in developing countries,” Dr Scharoun said.

She explained that the challenge was to create a document that would be both easy to use by literate and illiterate people and accessible and highly visible in the home.

“But it also had to have the ability for health care workers to easily add information and for the parents to have a unique reminder and identifier for their child in order to remember to come to a health clinic for future vaccinations,” she said.

Dr Scharoun said previous research had shown that vaccination cards were found to be more effective when they were larger, colorful and held together in a plastic pouch with an attached string for hanging.

“So in my design I used a colour-coded system for bracelets depending on the age of the child and integrated it into the design of the immunisation card. Once the health care worker has administered the vaccination, they tick the appropriate box on the card, cross out the symbol on the bracelet and cut the bracelet away from the card and place on the child’s leg or wrist.

“The bracelets act as a unique identifier and constant visual reminder for the parent to return for the next vaccination,” she said.

Judges of the competition included Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organisation, Tony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, Walt Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Centre at Emory’s University and Robert Fabricant, vice president of Frog Design.

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