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Protecting women from Cervical Cancer through innovation

News   Chapter Banda   March 18, 2019
PIC: Mia explaining how the kits work to Medical Practitioners
An associate lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The Malawi Polytechnic, Waheed Mia has developed Cervical Cancer Training Kits.

These kits will be used to sharpen, familiarize and teach medical practitioners the skills that they should have, before going for cervical cancer screening.

 The cervical cancer training models have been designed in gel-based shape of the cervix that are substantially cheaper, portable and more palatable than plastic or meat models.

The kits are being manufactured at The Malawi Polytechnic Design Studio by using locally available resources such as wood, PVC pipes, fabric and foam.

Mia started working on the project when he was undergraduate student at The Polytechnic where he studied Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering.

The idea came in after he had a chance to do an internship at Rice 360 Institute for Global Health in his fourth year of studies in 2016.

“When I was doing my internship at Rice University together with my fellow students from Rice we were given lists of different projects to work on. From these lists, I decided to venture in the project of developing cervical cancer training models that are cost-effective in developing countries,” he reminisced.

He added that he was shocked to realise that Malawi has highest world’s cervical cancer rate.

“Learning about the extent to which Malawians were affected by cervical cancer motivated me to work on this project,” he added.

According to the Studio Director, Brittany Allen, the project provides an ideal example of how local innovators can use the resources around them to design a scale up products so that they can have an impact on communities around them.

“Waheed Mia’s Project started as a collaboration between The Polytechnic students and Rice University and is a great model of how two countries can work together to create high-impact solutions to global problems,” Allen stated.

There are a number of tools that are available for the early detection and treatment of Cervical Cancer and its precursors in low-resource settings.  

However, there are commercially available mannequins that help to teach cervical cancer screening skills, but these simulators are costly to be used in developing countries like Malawi.

To practice biopsy, cryotherapy, and a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), often models with animal tissue likes of beef tongue are used. Therefore, this is messy and easily contaminated, and it is impractical in some areas across Malawi.

These models have also been trialled in medically underserved parts of Texas, as well as El Salvador, Malawi and Mozambique.

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