How a Simple App is Changing Emergency Access to Health Care in Ghana

February 5, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

SnooCode app on a smartphone
Photo credit: Courtesy of SnooCode

In a county without street addresses, you need an alternate way for ambulances to find you.

If you’ve ever travelled to a foreign city, you know the challenges of finding your way around somewhere you aren’t familiar with. Now, try to imagine doing that without street names or numbers. Any directions given to you would resemble: “turn right at the end of the lane next to the blue cart with the crooked tree.” If it’s somewhere you go all the time, that might not be so bad, but what about if you’re in a rush and can’t afford to take a wrong turn? That’s the current situation in countries like Ghana.

A company called SnooCode has a solution. They have developed an app that can give any location a particular code that can then be shared with others — paramedics, delivery people, friends, etc. The app works on the Android platform and not only determines a code, it can also provide a map to any location for which you already have a code.

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According to their website, the code contains six alphanumeric characters and “[a] user only needs to recognize the letters A to Z and the numbers 2 to 9. This means even people with much lower literacy level can use it.” Since, according to UNICEF, the total adult literacy level was only at 71.5 percent from 2008 to 2012, this is an important factor to consider.

“My grandma in her village in the Volta Region doesn't have a smart phone so we went to her house got her a code and stuck it on the fridge. It means if she is in trouble she can call [emergency services] and give them her code," said SnooCode founder Sesinam Dagadu to the BBC. Users don’t require a smartphone or the app to benefit from its service.

The CodeRed project aims to equip emergency medical technicians (EMTs) with this technology, and come closer to the World Health Organization’s eight-minute emergency response time standard. TinyDavid Ghana Limited, the developers of SnooCode have designed the CodeRed application, supplied devices for the National Ambulances Service and trained more than 160 EMTs on how to use them.

“[When giving directions] People always say: 'It's by the chop bar', 'beside the mango tree' or 'after the blue kiosk' and that isn't the way it should be… I wanted to change that," said Dagadu to the BBC.

Sometimes all it takes is a small change to save countless lives. It sounds very hopeful to me!

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