Philips and Grand Challenges Canada have signed a repayable grant agreement to scale the manufacturing and distribution of the Philips Children’s Respiration Monitor (also known as ChARM) to make it affordable and accessible for community-based health workers in low-resource settings throughout the world. ChARM has the potential to assist community health workers in establishing a more accurate measurement of a sick child’s breathing rate, to help improve the diagnosis of pneumonia and potentially prevent some of the 922,000 childhood deaths caused by pneumonia each year.
Pneumonia remains the leading infectious cause of death among children under-five, killing nearly 2,500 children a day. With most victims under two years of age, the vast majority of deaths occur in low-resource settings in developing countries, where treatment is not readily available for many children. UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have made pneumonia a focus area in efforts to reduce child mortality.
The repayable grant, matched by Philips, will finance the market launch of ChARM and support the development of the next generation of the device, which is planned to include pulse oximetry. The agreement also aims to ensure global access in low- and middle-income countries.
One important aspect in diagnosing pneumonia is monitoring a child’s breathing rate. In the developing world, community health workers count how many breaths a child takes in the span of a minute to detect and diagnose the condition. But achieving an accurate count can be difficult, as shallow breaths are hard to detect, children often move around and there may be distractions and other checks to perform.
The Philips ChARM is strapped around a child’s chest, without requiring direct skin contact. It delivers an accurate and reliable breathing rate measurement by converting chest movements detected by accelerometers into an accurate breathing count, using specially developed algorithms. The monitor not only provides quantitative feedback, but also qualitative feedback to the healthcare provider based on the World Health Organization’s IMCI 3 (Integrated Management of Childhood Illness) guidelines to diagnose fast breathing rates, which is one of the key vital signs to diagnosing pneumonia.
The Philips ChARM is being developed for low-resource settings: the device will be dust-proof, water-splashing proof and can be used in extreme temperatures. The long-lasting battery will make it power-independent, suitable for areas without electricity. It will be small and easily portable for use in community and clinical settings. The user interface is pictogram-based, designed to be intuitive and easy to use, suitable for providers with low literacy.
In the hands of community health workers, the Philips ChARM has significant potential to save and improve lives. At scale, over 100 million children per year could receive more accurate pneumonia diagnosis support with ChARM, based on the potential projected by Philips.
Field testing on the Philips ChARM was conducted in East Africa and India, from which improvements in design and technology were incorporated on the basis of feedback from community health workers and clinical officers in these low-resource settings.
The Philips Children’s Respiration Monitor is pending CE-marking and is expected to become commercially available from the third quarter of 2016.