Lauren Braun and her Alma Sana Vaccine Bracelet

Jane and I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren Braun over Skype on Saturday (29-Nov-14) and what an inspirational 2hr conversation it was.

Lauren, who is currently studying for an MSc in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has spent the last 5 years conceiving, designing and testing what has turned out to be a really simple bracelet to keep track of the vaccinations a child receives. She set up a not for profit organisation called Alma Sana Inc as a vehicle for this work.

Alma Sana bracelet Bracelet in place
Alma Sana punchThe bracelet is brilliant in its simplicity. It is made of silicon and costs less than $0.10. It comes with symbols and numbers stamped in it. The numbers represent the age of the child in months and the symbols the different types of vaccines due at that age.

The bracelet is worn around the ankle and every time the child is vaccinated a hole is punched through the appropriate symbol.

Lauren trialled the bracelet, with support from the Gates Foundation in Cusco in Peru, and it was a great success. During our conversation Lauren recalled an exchange with one of the mothers using the bracelet: “The mother showed me the bracelet and explained what all the symbols meant.” Lauren said, “and then she picked out one in particular that hadn’t been punched. They ran out of Polio vaccine that day, the mother said.”

Lauren failed in her bid for scale-up funding because Gates’ priority became more focused on Africa and less focused on other regions, including South America where Lauren had planned to scale up. Sound familiar? In fact there are so many parallels between Lauren’s work and ours:

  1. Both are health innovations aimed at less developed countries.
  2. Both are driven by the passion of individuals with a bright idea.
  3. Both are shaped by users themselves by asking what they want not what you think they need.
  4. Both have changed direction according to user feedback and experience (eg the original concept was that the bracelet be worn by the mother).
  5. Both are frustrated by the long drawn out process of publishing results in peer-reviewed journals.
  6. Both have international recognition in the form of awards.
  7. Both are struggling to get scale-up funding.
  8. And so the list goes on.

More information can be found on the Alma Sana website and the Alma Sana Facebook page.  If you’d like to hear Lauren’s story for yourself, watch this Cornell University TEDx presentation she gave in December 2013 which I have also embedded below.

We look forward to more inspiring conversations with Lauren.