Grand Challenges Canada

High blood pressure during pregnancy is associated with a multitude of maternal health risks, including pre-eclampsia, hypertension, and early death. Women with a history of high blood pressure during pregnancy have more than twice the risk of premature death from heart disease making it essential to measure and track blood pressure, especially in low-resource settings where there may be limited access to medical tools.

During Grand Challenges Canada’s Round 8 funding for the Saving Lives at Birth program, we provided funding to Ona Kenya to develop the first cuffless smartphone-based blood pressure measurement app. The app, OPTiBP, uses optical pulse-waves captured from the fingertip by the smartphone camera to accurately measure blood pressure in line with ISO standards. Developed in collaboration with Biospectal, SUMMIT Institute of Development (SID Indonesia), and the World Health Organization (WHO), the app measures patient blood pressure without the need for expensive medical tools. GCC’s funding was used to integrate OPTiBP’s software with the WHO’s Open Smart Register Program, ‘OpenSRP’ — a longitudinal patient record system for frontline workers, which uses the WHO’s evidence-based algorithms to improve pregnancy outcomes.

A recent pioneering study published in Nature highlighted the app’s potential to be a lifesaving innovation, especially for pregnant individuals. According to Ӧzge Tunçalp, one of the study’s authors, “The ability to estimate blood pressure through a phone app has the potential to help address barriers to the diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure during pregnancy.” Given that hypertensive disorders are a leading cause of maternal mortality and morbidity during pregnancy, blood pressure monitoring is an essential part of antenatal care. Technology like OPTiBP helps make digital health interventions more accessible and reliable, helping to bridge the healthcare gap globally, especially for the most underserved populations.

Learn more about OPTiBP and its lifesaving potential on the WHO website: