A Breakthrough in Detecting Childhood Malnutrition, Action Against Hunger’s SAM Photo App® Named Fast Company 2023 World Changing Ideas Awards Finalist

NEW YORK, NY, May 11, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Fast Company’s 2023 World Changing Ideas Awards were unveiled this week, and the nonprofit Action Against Hunger was honored for its potentially lifesaving new app that is equipping health workers and parents with a faster, more effective way to detect childhood malnutrition.  

With just a quick photo, the app compares the shape of a healthy child to the child being screened, eliminating human error and providing a more accurate and detailed view of a child’s nutrition status. It eliminates the need for health workers to lug cumbersome bucket scales and heavy height boards from one community to another, cross-referencing weight, height and upper-arm circumference with complex data tables, a time-consuming and error-prone process.

Dubbed SAM Photo App, it was designed to meet the urgent need to detect severe acute malnutrition (SAM), which contributes to more than 5,000 daily child deaths from hunger-related causes. Nearly 75% of children never receive the help they need, and delayed diagnosis of malnutrition is a significant barrier. 

Designed for poor, rural areas with no internet connection, low literacy levels, and the most basic Android phones, this new tool holds the promise of screening more children more quickly. The goal is to reach more hungry children more quickly, opening the door to affordable, lifesaving malnutrition treatments, which have been proven 90% effective.

“Our long-term vision is for every parent to be able to check their child’s nutritional status at home just as easily as parents in wealthier countries can check a child’s temperature,” said Laura Medialdea Marcos, Principal Investigator of SAM Photo App® Project, Research Expert, Technical Department, Action Against Hunger. “This tool also could be invaluable to community health workers in countries that have less structured or less well-resourced health systems. Ultimately, it could change the paradigm of the way the world screens and diagnoses malnutrition.”

The World Changing Ideas Awards honor sustainable designs, innovative products, bold social initiatives, and other creative projects that are changing the way we work, live, and interact with the world. This year, issues of food and agriculture garnered attention, from SAM Photo App to a palm oil alternative to an animal-free egg white.

“We are honored that our work is being recognized by Fast Company alongside so many impressive initiatives to address the most pressing issues of our time—like the fact that millions of people go to bed hungry every night,” said Dr. Charles E. Owubah, CEO of Action Against Hunger. “Action Against Hunger’s singular purpose is to end hunger in our lifetimes. Awareness of the issue and innovations like SAM Photo App are key to advancing that goal.”

A panel of Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners and finalists from a pool of more than 2,200 entries across urban design, education, nature, politics, technology, corporate social responsibility, and more. The seventh annual awards also feature entries from across the globe, from Italy to Singapore to New Zealand, recognizing creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest issues. The winners will be featured in Fast Company’s Spring 2023 issue, on newsstands May 9, 2023.

“It’s thrilling to see the creativity and innovation that are so abundant among this year’s honorees,” says Fast Company editor-in-chief Brendan Vaughan. “While it’s easy to feel discouraged by the state of the world, the entrepreneurs, companies, and nonprofits featured in this package show the limitless potential to address society’s most urgent problems. Our journalists have highlighted some of the most exciting and impactful work being done today—from housing to equity to sustainability—and we look forward to seeing not only how these projects evolve but how they inspire others to develop solutions of their own.”

Action Against Hunger has run large-scale pilots of SAM Photo App in Senegal, where more than 90 clinics are using the new solution and is actively working to expand the program from the Sahel region to other countries, including potentially in Latin America and Asia. SAM Photo App is a finalist in the Developing World Technology category, and previously earned Gold in the 2023 Anthem Awards.

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About Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger is a nonprofit leading a global movement to end hunger in our lifetimes. It innovates solutions, advocates for change, and reaches more than 24 million people every year with proven hunger prevention and treatment programs. As a nonprofit that works across more than 50 countries, its 8,300 dedicated staff members partner with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including climate change, conflict, inequity, and emergencies. It strives to create a world free from hunger, for everyone, for good. 

About the World Changing Ideas Awards

World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company’s major annual awards programs and is focused on social good, seeking to elevate finished products and brave concepts that make the world better. A panel of judges from across sectors choose winners, finalists, and honorable mentions based on feasibility and the potential for impact. With the goals of awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, Fast Company draws attention to ideas with great potential and helps them expand their reach to inspire more people to start working on solving the problems that affect us all.


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