Makerere University wins award to develop a solution to the challenges faced in fighting Ebola in sub-Saharan Africa

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense to help health care workers provide better care and contain this devastating virus. In just two months, innovators from around the world submitted over 1,500 ideas focused on helping frontline health care workers to provide better, more timely care and to contain this devastating virus. Through a collaborative and rigorous expert review, the Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge Team has identified a dozen additional innovations that address existing gaps in the current Ebola response. In all a total of 15 innovations have been nominated for award to date.

These innovations can be employed rapidly to address the current Ebola response and better prepare for future outbreaks. The award nominees can be classified in several categories: 1) cutting edge tools for advanced patient care; 2) reimagining the health care setting to enhance care, increase access, and improve worker safety; 3) improving the safety of health care workers: suits and protective layers; 4) improving the safety of health care workers: decontaminates; 5) changing behaviour to eliminate Ebola; and 6) information communication technology solutions.

The primary objective is to get improved solutions into the field as quickly as possible. To ensure that this happens, the Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge Team is working to put in place clear and rigorous pathways to rapidly test and deploy the best ideas.

ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and Makerere University School of Public Health to design the next generation ergonomic tent to support humanitarian service delivery

Frontline healthcare workers involved in management of suspected and confirmed Ebola cases in humid sub-tropical, tropical, and equatorial climates work under very stressful conditions characterized by extreme heat and humidity predisposing them to heat stress and its associated complications. These extreme environmental conditions also affect quality of care for patients. Health care workers cannot spend more than a couple of hours dressed in the full-body Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) because of the extreme heat and discomfort. This lessens patient care contact time yet much of the treatment for Ebola should be supportive. The frequent but short work-rest schedules put them at risk of infection. This is because they are more likely to make procedural errors as they move back and forth into contaminated and non-contaminated zones. Patients too have to endure the same conditions. The extremely hot environment in their isolation wards exacerbates their risk of electrolyte imbalances due to excessive perspiration, yet Ebola patients are already at a higher risk of physiological and bio-chemical imbalances. Countries affected by Ebola are located in sub-Saharan Africa along the Equator, with very hot and humid climates.

RAN’s proposed solution is a redesigned Ebola treatment tent that aims to substantially change the working environment for health care workers through its ergonomic design which allows for a significant increase in airflow and decrease in ambient temperatures in hot climatic conditions.



Diagrammatic impression of the proposed solution- a redesigned Ebola treatment tent

Prof. William Bazeyo and Dr. Roy William Mayega from Makerere University College of Health Sciences, School of Public Health (MakSPH), will lead a team of students and faculty teamed up with those from the College of Engineering, Design Art and Technology (CEDAT) to design the next generation tent to support humanitarian service delivery. The redesigned tent keeps the favorable features of current designs (simplicity, cheapness and structural safety) while re-imagining and re-engineering the mechanisms for heat and air exchange within, through integration of a convectional currents mechanism and porous walls. The change in ambient environment will have three major advantages over the current ones namely; improved patient management by reducing the heat stress faced by healthcare workers wearing heavy PPE materials, improved comfort for the patients and amenability to ‘plug-in’ accessories to support human-led service delivery, or “portable hospitals.”

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“Solutions through Innovation”