02:09pm Wednesday 16 October 2019

"Happy Feet" to improve childhood vaccination programs

RMIT’s Dr Stephen Davis and Professor Kathy Horadam, from the School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences, will collaborate with the University of Melbourne’s Associate Professor Jodie McVernon to collect and study footprints of babies under the project, dubbed “Happy Feet” by the researchers.

The vision is for health workers to access the vaccination histories of children by scanning or photographing their footprints, removing reliance on parent-held immunisation cards that are readily lost or damaged.

“Biometrics for very small children is notoriously difficult because infants grow, and they grow fast,” Dr Davis said.

“We have ideas about how to overcome this, and we think the footprint is the ideal biometric to work with. We have nicknamed our study ‘Happy Feet’ and we are very excited to be funded.”

Dr Davis is a newly appointed lecturer at RMIT, having recently returned to Australia from a Research Associate position at Yale University in the United States.

He is a theoretical epidemiologist with 10 years’ full-time research experience in modelling the dynamics and control of infectious disease systems in Africa, Central Asia and North America.

The Grand Challenges Explorations grants program supports projects that show promise in tackling priority global health issues where solutions do not yet exist.

Chris Wilson, Director of Global Health Discovery for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “We believe in the power of innovation – that a single bold idea can pioneer solutions to our greatest health and development challenges.

“Grand Challenges Explorations seeks to identify and fund these new ideas wherever they come from, allowing scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to pursue the kinds of creative ideas and novel approaches that could help to accelerate the end of polio, cure HIV infection or improve sanitation.”

Grand Challenges Explorations is a $US100 million initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Grants have been awarded to nearly 500 researchers from more than 40 countries since the program was launched in 2008.

Initial grants of $US100,000 are awarded two times a year, with successful projects given an opportunity to receive follow-on grants of up to $US1 million.

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