UBC assistant clinical professor Richard Lester won for his work on WelTel, a program that contacts patients weekly via text message to remind them to follow their drug therapy and address any problems they may have.
A preliminary study of 530 AIDS patients in Nairobi using the program found a marked improvement in their health: a 20 per cent reduction in their viral load.
“Ninety per cent of the people attending the clinic had cellphones and we basically thought how can we use this to help patients?” said the Vancouver-based BC Centres for Disease Control staffer. “We saw an opportunity where cellphones can bridge the gap between the clinic and when patients go home to their community.”
Lester will use the grant to test the program with a thousand AIDS patients, working with a clinic in Kajiado, Kenya.
The pair were each awarded “Rising Stars” grants from Grand Challenges Canada, a two-year-old independent not-for-profit organization based in Toronto and funded by the federal government. Thirteen other Canadian innovators working in the area of global public health were also awarded a total of $1.5 million Thursday.
The goal of the organization, said CEO Dr. Peter Singer, is to “fund bold ideas with big impact that can help save lives.”
Some innovations could eventually be used in Canada’s remote Aboriginal or rural areas, he said.
“Innovation anywhere is innovation everywhere,” Singer said.