PEI

App to track blood pressure could save millions in developing world

When Daniel Burka was given the opportunity to develop a phone app that could save millions or even billions of lives he felt it was his responsibility to take the job.

260 million in India estimated to suffer from hypertension

Daniel Burka has his blood pressure taken at a clinic in Bangalore. (Submitted by Daniel Burka)

When Daniel Burka was given the opportunity to develop a phone app that could save millions or even billions of lives he felt it was his responsibility to take the job.

Burka started out as the co-founder of the web design company silverorange on Prince Edward Island, and most recently was the design lead at Google Ventures. It was there he met Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director the U.S. Centers for Disease Control who was running a group called Resolve to Save Lives, an Initiative of Vital Strategies.

The group has set a goal of saving 100 million lives, with a focus on two health issues: cardio-vascular disease and preparing countries for epidemics. Burka's project is focused on that first issue.

"If you could help more and more patients control their blood pressure, the idea is that you could save 100 million lives," said Burka.

A very basic application

The problem Burka is focused on is record keeping.

Countries such as Canada and the United States have electronic record keeping that makes it easy to track a patient's blood pressure. In India, blood pressure may be taken when a patient goes to a clinic, but the paper record is often thrown out at the end of the day.

"This is a major challenge for treating patients, and then at the population level it's very hard to know which places are treating hypertension well, and which places have an opportunity to do better," said Burka.

Daniel Burka will be back in Bangalore to work with this staff next month. (Daniel Burka)

"I'm developing, right now, a very, very basic application that clinicians, and nurses mostly, will be able to use on their phones to be able to track a patient's blood pressure over time."

With an estimated one in five Indians suffering from hypertension, that's 260 million people that could benefit from this technology. If the project is a success in India, the group could move on to China and Thailand.

When presented with the opportunity to do this work, Burka felt a strong responsibility to take it.

"It was just so clear to me that this was an excellent opportunity to go and impact billions of people on something that's as basic and meaningful as curing an important disease that kills people," he said.

Resolve to Save Lives is well funded, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Burka will be taking his app to Bangalore, India, for a pilot project in July.

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With files from Island Morning

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