Media Contact: Lauren Braun, (317) 409-3488, info@almasanaproject.org

INDIANAPOLIS, November 1, 2012– Alma Sana Inc. announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Lauren Braun, president and founder, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Alma Sana: Immunization-Tracking Reminder Bracelet”, that aims to increase immunization rates in Peru and ensure that all children live to see their fifth birthday.

“Being selected as a Gates Foundation grant recipient is a tremendous honor,” explains Braun. “This project has been three heartfelt years in the making, and receiving funding to make it possible to test it is just a dream come true.” Braun continues, “Having lived in Peru and having seen the excitement from the nurses and moms about the real potential of this project to improve their lives and the health of their children is what’s motivated me to keep advocating for this project. With this grant I can realize the promise I made to them to see this project to fruition.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. Lauren Braun’s project is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”

To receive funding, Braun and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10, will be accepted through November 7, 2012. 

The World Health Organization estimates that globally each year 1.5 million children die of vaccine-preventable diseases, accounting for nearly 20% of all mortality of children under age five. The goal of Alma Sana’s project is to increase rates of full and timely immunization through Peruvian mothers’ use of a simple reminder bracelet, to be worn by children from birth to age four. Braun, a 2011 graduate of Cornell University and Park Tudor High School alumna, conceived of the idea of using a bracelet as a pneumonic device while volunteering at a public health clinic in Cusco, Peru. She observed that young children were dying of diseases that vaccines would have prevented, yet the public health clinics were regularly discarding unused, expired vaccines. To further compound the problem, Braun observed that nurses would be forced to leave the health clinics for hours each day and go searching, door-to-door, for mothers to remind them of their children’s vaccination appointments.

Use of this patent-pending immunization bracelet will ensure that children—particularly those living in poor and rural areas—receive full and timely immunization by giving moms a simple way to track the immunization records of their children. This will result in more children living to age five, beyond the most vulnerable period of life, while nurses will be able to remain in the health clinics and see more patients. Furthermore, the Peruvian Ministry of Health will cut their costs of immunization owed to their subsidization of the total cost of all vaccines and due to fixed delivery costs which negatively impact the cost of immunizing children living in poor, rural, and hard-to-reach areas. After numerous conversations with the nurses and mothers about the bracelet’s use and design, Braun developed this patent-pending bracelet so that it is simple and non-mechanical in design, inexpensive to manufacture, and uses symbols instead of words to convey vaccine information, so the information can be easily understood by the Quechua-speaking mothers. By looking at the bracelet, a mother will know the number and type of vaccines her child has received at any point in time and the date of the child’s next immunization appointment. To supplement the bracelet, posters and note cards containing the same graphical information as the bracelet will be distributed to mothers, nurses, and health clinics.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 700 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants.  The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization.  The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.  Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

About Alma Sana Inc.

Founded in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2012, Alma Sana Inc. is a social enterprise aimed at reducing health inequalities among populations.  Alma Sana believes in achieving this goal through involvement, education, and empowerment of local populations and through partnership with multisectoral healthcare professionals and advocates in developing and developed countries.  Alma Sana also strives to establish equitable relationships with the countries’ local charities, government entities, and healthcare systems in an effort to collectively improve the well-being and lives of the people it serves. Alma Sana Inc. is a not-for-profit company and has a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the IRS.

Posted
AuthorLauren Braun