Greenwich academic receives funding from Google to help save the lives of mothers and new-borns


Dr Aduragbemi Banke-Thomas and his team have been awarded the funding for their work looking at how Google Maps could be used to help pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Banke-Thomas, a Senior Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Greenwich, says:

“Google contacted me after reading a paper that was published in October of last year. The paper explores how Google Maps could be used for generating closer-to-reality travel time estimates for pregnant women in emergency situations.271385

This could help governments to identify and make plans to address hotspots of emergency critical maternal health in sub–Saharan Africa.”

The proposed digital platform will inform actions to improve geographical accessibility to such critical health services, underpinned by context-specific evidence, leading to saving the lives of women and newborns.

Thanks to this funding from Google, Dr Banke-Thomas and his team can scale up their work across urban areas of low- and middle-income countries. The funds are to be used to set up a novel consortium called the OnTIME Consortium, (TIME meaning Tackling In-transit delays for Mothers in Emergency).

This project will use Google Directions API data and geo-coded databases on functionality of public and private hospitals in urban areas of low and middle-income countries to develop a digital platform for estimating travel time and distance to nearest and second nearest private or public hospitals with capacity to provide emergency obstetric care at different times of the day.

The resulting analysis and digital platform will provide the first comprehensive understanding of how long it takes women to reach their nearest hospital with the necessary facilities at any time of the day.

It will be delivered in three phases. Phase 1, pilot phase, will focus on urban areas in Nigeria. Phase II will then move across sub-Saharan Africa and Phase III will shift to Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Dr Aduragbemi Banke-Thomas says:

“The opportunity that Google has provided to scale up this very important work has really humbled me. As researchers, we are constantly thinking ‘how do we solve the big problems’. However, big problems need big fixers and having the backing of Google to do this along with the phenomenal team that I work with, I am confident that together we can achieve big things.”

Google supports and participates in the academic research community through meaningful engagement with university faculty. Their ongoing programs provide Research Awards for academic research, as well as enable faculty to collaborate with Google researchers.

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