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This $1 Necklace Is Helping Thousands of Indian Kids Lead Healthier Lives

Every year, roughly 500,000 children in India under the age of 5 die from vaccine-preventable diseases. This staggering figure is difficult to comprehend. But when one considers that just 40% of mothers in the district of Udaipur in Rajasthan, India receive the recommended four antenatal care checkups, a picture of a society with an ineffective health-care system begins to emerge.

Community health workers play a key role in making sure children are receiving necessary vaccines at the right time. However, without reliable health records, health workers sometimes must rely on a mom’s memory to provide care, making decisions less accurate or beneficial to the child. 

But Khushi Baby, winner of the Johnson & Johnson GenH Challenge, hopes to change that. The GenH Challenge rewards innovative solutions that address the pressing needs of those who are on the front lines of delivering care.

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In India, one of those needs is ensuring every child receives vaccines. To receive the right vaccine at the right time, health workers need reliable patient records. Most community nurses and health workers maintain handwritten patient records on paper cards, which take a lot of time to complete and are easily lost or damaged. In fact, these notes are retained by only 52% of mothers and are often missing information. As a result, health workers are tasked with trying to guess which patient has received which innoculations, and invariably some are missed or duplicated in the chaos.

A group of Yale students recognized that the lack of consistent record-keeping posed a major threat to the health of babies in India. Their solution was an unlikely one: jewelry.

The Khushi Baby team created a low-cost, waterproof, battery-free pendant necklace that contains a digital copy of the wearer’s health history. This not only helps mothers and health care workers keep better records, but also makes sure those records are always on hand.

Read more: How This Determined Nurse Helped Develop a Test to Save Babies’ Lives

The necklace allows health workers to read and update the information at the point of care or to review health records remotely using a related app. It was designed with the community to reflect a culturally-accepted talisman that wards off bad spirits.

So far 30,000 patients in the Udaipur district are being tracked by the necklace — with many more on the horizon. 

Khushi Baby is already sparking conversations among new mothers and helping to raise awareness of the need for better health care and reliable health records within communities and across borders. 

As the winner of the Johnson & Johnson GenH Challenge, Khushi Baby now receives funding and ongoing mentorship that will ultimately empower them to reach 100,000 babies every year. Khushi Baby’s creative, community-informed approach provides an innovative solution to a critical problem that saves lives — and moms love it.