Late last year, we told you about Project E-MPOWER – a new initiative from our partners in India. Here’s an update!
Since 2005, TF has partnered with Speech and Orthodontic specialists at Chennai’s Sri Ramachandra University (SRU) in India to provide community-based rehabilitation (CBR) to rural families. In India, a major barrier to providing comprehensive healthcare is the long distances and poor transportation for families living in rural areas. In response, the Speech and Dental departments at SRU teamed up to train CBR workers to provide basic follow up in their communities.
CBR workers are trained to identify, screen, document and refer individuals to the hospital. They are also trained to provide basic speech correction services in a child’s home or school, under the supervision of a Speech Therapist.
As a result, the project has provided identification, referral, surgery, speech correction, dental and orthodontic care, to more than 300 children with cleft lip and palate.
The SRU team travels each month to rural communities to provide:
- Identification of speech and hearing disorders
- Referrals to ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists
- Speech therapy, using trained CBR workers
- Dental and orthodontic work
Children born with a cleft palate are more likely to have speech problems at some time in their lives, with over half requiring speech therapy at some point during childhood. In addition, ear infections are more likely to occur and are related to hearing loss, language delays, and speech problems. 
In 2012, Sri Ramachandra University was awarded funding from Mahindra, an Indian multinational automaker, to develop a mobile application software through a competitive grant program. They developed Project E-MPOWER.
Since then, our partners at SRU have used the grant money to develop the project to its current stage. The Implementation of E-Technology in Community-Based Project (E-Technology Project) is a mobile app that will be piloted to improve speech and hearing services for children living in rural areas.
This mobile app will enable the SRU team to follow patients more closely, instantly track their progress, manage a larger patient load, and receive more timely updates as the project expands to new rural districts.
The application has now been installed on mobile phones. The CBR workers will be trained to use these mobile phones and the mobile app. They will then use the app when they are in the field and will collect data about the patients in order to monitor their progress.
This application will also enable the community worker to document demographic information, distance travelled, results of screening procedures, and it will also allow them to store a video or audio sample. This allows the hospital to track the patient’s progress and adjust the therapy as needed.
Since the mobile app was developed, TF has committed to helping our partners pilot this initiative in our community projects in the Thiruvanamalli region of India. Thiruvannamalai, one of the six districts of Tamil Nadu, was chosen because it is a rural area with poor access to the state capital of Chennai and because the district has an existing network of local NGOs interested in community development and disability.
By the end of the pilot year, it is expected that 10 CBR workers will be trained and that documentation (using the app) will occur for all active patients. This is an opportunity to generate positive change and improve the delivery of healthcare in rural areas with a tool that is already being used in the developing world – the mobile phone. It will benefit the children and families by allowing them to receive care in a timely fashion while cutting down on transportation times and cost. It will also allow the local team to streamline their speech program and community outreach.
To find out more about our work in India, click here.
Want to support this initiative?
 Cleft Palate Foundation. (Oct 25, 2007). Speech Development. In Cleftline.org. Retrieved July 30, 2013, from http://www.cleftline.org/what-we-do/publications/fact-sheets/speech-development/