A simple bracelet designed by Lauren Braun ’11 is saving the lives of children across the globe.
Braun developed the idea of a bracelet to remind parents to vaccinate their children during a 2009 summer internship at a public health clinic in Cusco, Peru. She went on to launch a non-profit organization called Alma Sana Inc. to put her idea into action.
This summer, Alma Sana received a share of a $1 million grant from GlaxoSmithKline and Save the Children to roll-out the bracelets in Nigeria, where vaccine-preventable diseases account for about 30 percent of deaths of children under age five. Alma Sana has subsequently been selected, by popular vote of more than 1,000 GlaxoSmithKline and Save the Children employees, to receive the Employee Choice Award, which grants Alma Sana an additional $25,000.
“We chose to expand to Nigeria because of its poor vaccination rates and large population, which make it an ideal place to scale up,” Braun said. “The bracelets empower parents by helping them understand and remember their child’s vaccination schedule.”
Alma Sana was one of four non-profits selected from 171 submissions for the GlaxoSmithKline award, which is designed to help organizations expand innovations that are making a tangible difference to children’s health.
Alma Sana previously worked with public health clinics in Peru and Ecuador to study the bracelet’s effectiveness. In the company’s initial study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 91 percent of mothers said the bracelets helped remind them of their children’s vaccination dates.
The bracelets are made of flexible silicone, like the yellow Livestrong bands popular in the early 2000s, and sized to fit around a newborn’s ankle. Each bracelet is marked with symbols and numbers to represent children’s ages and necessary vaccines. When a child receives a vaccine, a nurse punches a hole in the bracelet to record it. When every mark on the bracelet is punched, the child is fully vaccinated.
“Mothers understand vaccines are important for their children’s health, but they don’t understand how a vaccine works or why it’s important to come back on time,” Braun said. “Our bracelet offers a way to better understand vaccines, how they work and why they’re important. And it enables moms to easily remember the dates of their children’s vaccinations, so more children are immunized and in a timely manner.”