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Oxford (UK), and Nairobi (Kenya) - A smartphone game developed by doctors in Kenya and Oxford provides vital emergency care training to African healthcare workers.

470,000 babies die each year in Africa on the day they are born. This project aims to address this avoidable tragedy by using low-cost smartphones to give as many healthcare workers as possible the knowledge they need to provide life-saving treatment to newborn babies.

The scenario-based mobile gaming platform known as Life-saving Instruction for Emergencies (LIFE) will teach healthcare workers to identify and manage medical emergencies, using game-like training techniques to reinforce the key steps that need to be performed in order for a healthcare worker to save the life of a newborn baby in distress.

A team of doctors based in Oxford and Kenya today launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £100,000 to develop the game for use in the field. The funds will be used to develop an interactive 3D simulation of an emergency scenario based in a hospital delivered through a smartphone. The team will also be exploring how a Virtual Reality version of the game will be able to offer even greater levels of realism with the new HTC Vive VR system. The LIFE platform could enable training to be delivered for emergencies affecting all ages.

Mike English, a Professor at Oxford's Department of Tropical Medicine and an Associate Fellow at Green Templeton College, is leading the appeal. Mike, who is also a paediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, said: "In Africa, the day a baby is born is also the day it faces the greatest risk of death. Over 1 million babies die in the first 28 days of life.

"The World Health Organisation estimates that over two thirds of new-born deaths in Africa could be avoided by delivering essential interventions including emergency care effectively.

"With face-to-face training we have reached only a tiny proportion of the 2.5 million African healthcare workers. We need a system that enables everyone to access and learn the essential steps to save babies in an emergency. This is what we're aiming to do with our LIFE platform. We will make it available so that healthcare workers with a basic smartphone can download the game and learn or revise essential knowledge regularly."

Other members of the team include Dr Chris Paton, Dr Hilary Edgcombe, Jakob Rossner and in Kenya Prof Grace Irimu and Dr John Wachira.

Already, over 5,000 healthcare workers and 2,000 medical students have been trained using the scenario-based teaching on which the game is based. The course, called ETAT+, is used across Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, and introduced to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and, most recently, Myanmar.

By using the LIFE game, African healthcare workers in even the remotest settings will be trained so that their first instinct is to act correctly. The game will teach them the latest guidelines, and can also be linked to professional accreditation, with built-in reminders to stay up-to-date and refresh what has been learned.

The team are launching the @OxReach crowdfunding appeal today to raise £100k to develop the LIFE platform over the next twelve months. The @OxReach platform is provided through crowdfunding specialist Hubbub.

Dr Wilson Were of the World Health Organization's Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health said: "The LIFE project is both innovative and transformative. It shows the way we should think about and take advantage of the changing technological landscape in Africa."

Jonathan May, founder of Hubbub and Director of the UK Crowdfunding Association, said: "We're really excited to be working with the @OxReach team: the LIFE game is an example of exactly the kind of socially conscious innovation we need in the 21st century. The right technology can empower individuals and organisations to change the world for the better: we hope that the university embracing crowdfunding will inspire the wider community to get involved."

The team are also being supported by Isis Innovation, the University of Oxford's commercialisation arm, the University of Oxford Development Office, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Green Templeton College and by mobile and virtual reality innovator HTC, who will match the first £20,000 donated by the public.

Oxford's Green Templeton College, with its academic focus on human welfare, is supporting Professor English and the LIFE platform. The College is offering the opportunity to join Mike for dinner in the magnificent 18th century Radcliffe Observatory to anyone who donates £1,000 or more to LIFE.

To support the appeal please visit: https://oxreach.hubbub.net/p/LIFEproject