Grand Challenges Canada

October 08 2015 04:50 AM.


Early Intervention Therapy for Children with Delayed Development: Enabling Access in India’s Rural Communities

More than 6 million children in India today live with a disability. The WHO’s report on disability (2011) emphasizes that Early Intervention (EI) programs for developmentally delayed children under the age of 5 are vital to improving long-term function. Unfortunately, EI therapy remains inaccessible for most children in rural India because they live too far from centres where rehabilitation specialists work.

In Tamil Nadu, India, nearly half of all children with disabilities lack basic education. This exclusion is even more profound in rural communities. This novel project will empower local rehabilitation workers to implement early intervention programs for children with developmental delays. Customized tablet applications are used to coordinate with specialists located remotely, to tailor individualized programs for identified children.

The Idea:

Early intervention therapy is the most proven method for reducing disabilities and improving long term outcome for these children. 

Take for example the case study of a young mother living in a village in our district at Alangulam. Her little girl is nine months old, but unlike other children her age, she has yet to roll over or even grasp an object. The child needs early intervention therapy, which we provide for free at our centre, but she simply lives too far away to access this service. 

Our bold idea is to use this simple device - “a tablet” to train parents to provide early intervention therapy in their own homes. First, our rehabilitation experts, with the help pf our computer programming centre will design simple and user-friendly tablet based apps which focus on topics such as gross and fine motor development, speech and language skills, and feeding techniques. Traveling Community Rehabilitation Workers will be armed with tablets containing these apps which they will use to train parents in rural communities. Parents will be taught about their child's development and trained to provide early intervention therapy. 

Tablets will also be used to relay important information back to physio/ speech and occupational therapists at our centre, who will watch videos of these children and make recommendations for treatment. Video conferencing using existing satellite internet networks will enhance treatment by providing caregivers with immediate feedback from therapists. Now, our young mother in that remote community will not only be trained to give her child therapy in her own home but will also benefit from the expertise of trained professionals who would otherwise have been unavailable to her. 

In our district alone, we have identified 353 children for whom this program will make early intervention therapy possible. "Education for all" is a legislated right for all Indian children. However, children with special needs are often excluded. Our bold idea will empower parents, enable access to early intervention, and improve school integration and long term health outcomes. We will thus replicate the model in other parts of the country with the help of corporate partnerships in future.

About the Funding:

Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Government of Canada, has developed the Stars in Global Health program to support Bold Ideas with Big Impact from the best and brightest talent, both in low- and middle-income countries and in Canada, to use scientific/technical, social and business innovation to address some of the most pressing global health challenges. 

In the Round 7 Phase I Request for Proposals, Grand Challenges Canada seeks bold ideas aligned with innovative social entrepreneurial approaches that could be easily implemented in developing countries to save and improve lives. These bold ideas could come from non-profit organizations and for-profit organizations, as well as other recognized institutions. The ideas may encompass development/ deployment of products and/or services in any spectrum of global health, including drug discovery, vaccine development, diagnostics, health and medical education, maternal and child health, non-communicable diseases (including cancer and mental health), health-related water and sanitation, and health-related agriculture and nutrition. 

The focus is not on the organization, but on the concept of social entrepreneurship in the proposal. The concept must be novel, bold, innovative, transformational and ‘outside-the-box’. Existing social entrepreneurial ideas are welcomed so long as there is a clear innovative (novel) component being introduced. 

Proposals include a two-minute video explaining the target global health problem, the proposed solution and why it is a creative, bold and innovative approach. The purpose of the video is to engage the public in global health and demonstrate the creativity of innovators. These videos will be posted on Grand Challenges Canada’s website for public viewing and comment. 

Awards are initially valued at $100,000 CAD for up to 12–18 months to demonstrate proof of concept of the idea. 

Phase I grantees who complete a minimum of nine months of their Grand Challenges Canada grant, complete their proof-of-concept projects and have solutions that are ready to transition to scale will be invited to submit Phase II – Transition to Scale proposals. The Phase II – Transition to Scale program will require 50% matching of funds through partnerships to be eligible for Grand Challenges Canada funding. 

The success of the project in Phase I will be evaluated based on Boldness, Creativity and Integrated Innovation, Social Entrepreneurship, Scaling and Sustainability, the Principal Applicant and Team, Technical Merit/Execution Plan, Gender Equality, Good Governance and Positive Environmental Effect.

Title Early Intervention Therapy for Children with Delayed Development: Enabling Access in India's Rural Communities
Project #: S7 0647-01-10
Program: Stars in Global Health
Start Date Oct 1 2014
End Date Jan 31 2016
Institution name Amar Seva Sangam
Institution country India
Implementation country/ies India
Health priority Physical Disability
Health platform New Models in Health Care Delivery