Smart solutions brings health innovators to Talk Change

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The Smart Solutions 2014 Talk Change Conference on Innovative Health in Developing Countries was hosted at UW Nov. 22. The event occurred at the JR Coutts engineering lecture hall, where entrepreneurs, researchers, and thought-leaders shared expertise and ideas in health innovation which challenge the norm. It attracted 55 attendees.


Smart Solutions is a student-run, non-profit organization that develops solutions to problems in the developing world. Starting in 2009 at UW, it has expanded to McMaster and Western University. With many technology-focused topics in the past, this year’s Talk Change conference chose the theme of health care innovation. Speakers included Zahra Bhimani, Dr. Kelly Grindrod, Christine Gabardo, Christina Marchand, Aleks Poldma, and Spencer Kelly. All presenters were invited professionals who shared their projects in the developing world.


Bhimani worked with UNICEF Rwanda, and is currently working for the University Health Network. She shared insight to access on maternal health in Bangladesh, as well as the movement of resources in the developing world. Multi-faceted approaches, collaborative non-siloed communities, and involvement of stakeholders were advocated as parts of effective public health programs.


Grindrod is an assistant professor at UW’s School of Pharmacy and School of Public Health and Health Systems. She explained the importance of mobile health (mHealth) in developing countries and its perceived growth. This emergence of technologies allows for the improvement and transformation of medication management. The benefit of spreading knowledge through disadvantaged communities, such as free Wikipedia access, was also stressed.


Gabardo is a PhD candidate in the School of Biomedical Engineering at McMaster University. Her team designed a portable, inexpensive, and solar-powered biomolecular sensor to diagnose tuberculosis (TB) in a matter of hours. The production process of the chip was explored, as well as implementation potential of the device. Clinical tests are anticipated in two years, and this technology may eventually detect a multitude of diseases beyond TB.


Marchand co-founded FullSoul, a luxury clothing brand, after her experiences in Uganda delivering babies as a UW co-op. Connecting through Skype, she shared her social enterprise, which aims to provide hospitals in Uganda with medical supplies. Profits are to drive the investment of medical delivery kits, offering high social impact.


Poldma and Kelly are UW mechanical engineering graduates who founded Hydrated World during an enterprise co-op term. Their apparel company is in co-operation with the Safe Water project, an organization that teaches water bio-filter production in developing nations. Profits from their successful clothing sales will help the water crisis worldwide.


Smart Solutions has worked to motivate students to seek opportunities where they can make a difference through innovative approaches. Events have interested those who wish to work in the field of social enterprise and find solutions, but do not know where to start.


In winter 2015, Smart Solutions will host the Build-a-Change challenge, where students are challenged to solve real problems in a developing region. The winning idea will be sent to real institutions working on the issues.


Highlights of the 2014 Talk Change conference can be reviewed at @DevelopingSmart on Twitter.