How students design inventions in medical equipment that improve Ethiopian health care
Blog from our consultants Doreen Verbakel, Carmen Kurvers and Hans Maltha visiting the Jimma Technical University in Ethiopia as part of the Biomedical Engineering program.
We are on our way to our first meeting with Esayas Alemayehu and Wasehun Alemayehu, respectively director and lecturer at the Jimma Technical University. Jimma is a six hour drive away to the west from Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. Far enough to leave behind the busy life of the capital. The university is located on the edge of the city, where a beautiful campus stretches out over multiple similar buildings. It is a tranquil campus, with lots of greenery.
Esayas and Wasehun welcome us with a short summary of the lifecycle of this university. The most recent educational programme of the Jimma Technical University is the Biomedical Engineering programme. It has been set up in 2010 on demand of the Ministry of Health. Ethiopia did not have any studies for Biomedical Engineering before this time, which meant there were also no biomedical engineers employed in the hospitals and health centres in the country. As a consequence, all medical equipment needed by the hospitals had to be imported from abroad. An expensive matter, which led to a shortage of medical equipment. Next to this, imported equipment turned out to be inadequately adapted to the local context of Ethiopia. For good quality health care, medical equipment is required to adhere to local needs.
Medical equipment that fits the context of Ethiopia
Medical equipment that may perfectly function in hospitals in the Netherlands or the United States, might be too expensive, heavy, complex or partly irrelevant for the relatively small health centres in rural areas in Ethiopia. The quality of health care is dependent on the right adjustments of the delivered care to the needs of the people that are receiving this care. Medical equipment needs to be manageable for people that use it. Contextualising this equipment therefore starts already with the language displayed on the dashboard. Just like Dutch doctors do not have to work with French devices, so should Ethiopian doctors not have to work with only English devices. Educating the biomedical engineers of the future –who will develop the necessary medical equipment that truly is relevant in the local context- is therefore literally of vital importance.