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This Simple Kit Redesigns Children’s Health Records So They Actually Work

In countries with high child mortality, a simple record of immunization could help ensure survival. This design, a contest winner from the Gates Foundation, makes it much easier to keep track.

In countries like Kenya, where around 7% of children don’t make it to the age of five, a simple paper health record can mean the difference between life and death. Without the record, it can be impossible to know if a child has received necessary vaccinations. And the records in use now just don’t work very well–they’re often lost, damaged, or completed incorrectly.

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A new design from gravitytank aims to help make health records actually work. The design, which won the grand prize in the Gates Foundation’s Records for Life contest, is a kit with three simple parts: A booklet that visually tracks immunization, a booklet holder with a photo of the child, and educational cards that explain facts about pregnancy and infant health.


Current records “sort of try to cram everything into one document–the entire record and all of the child care information is all together, and it’s just a lot of information,” says Amy Guterman, a designer from gravitytank who worked on the project. “A lot of it is hard to digest, and it’s difficult to figure out where you’re supposed to put information when giving vaccines.”

The new record makes everything clear: Health care workers fill in the dates of vaccines inside the booklet, while the outside holder is meant for the family. Since one of the biggest challenges is just getting families to come back for the next vaccination–and the series of vaccinations won’t work unless a child gets them all–the booklet holder focuses on a reminder of the appointment date.


The holder is also designed to ensure the record’s survival. “The photo is an incentive for the mom to keep the booklet and cherish it,” says Guterman. A string at the top can be used to hang the record up at home. The holder is also made from a material that resists water, sand, and oil, so even if it goes through rough conditions, it should still be readable.

Everything’s in physical form, even though the majority of people in many developing world countries have access to mobile phones. “Gates was interested in reaching the people who don’t have access,” Guterman explains. “There were also issues where the husband might have the phone and not allow the wife to use it.”

Last year, along designs from other finalists in the Gates contest, this health record was shipped off to India, Kenya, and Indonesia for testing with families and health care workers. Though gravitytank’s solution ultimately won, Gates will also be bringing prototypes from other finalists to health care organizations. “Not any one design will become the final solution,” says Tiffany Huang, another designer who worked on the project. “These organizations will be able to pull different aspects from each design and hopefully implement a new record that is more effective.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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