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Villanova Students Use Cell Phones to Take on Healthcare Challenges in Waslala, Nicaragua


College students use their mobile devices for so many aspects of their lives. But it’s not often you hear about these devices being used to save lives. Students from Villanova University are involved in a Tele-health project in Waslala, Nicaragua, where cells phones are being integrated in order to solve some of the biggest challenges relating to healthcare and prescription access.

This spring, students from the Villanova chapters of Business Without Borders, Nursing Without Borders and Engineers Without Borders are returning to rural Waslala, to help expand a Tele-health project that has already saved three lives. This project has given Villanova undergraduates across three academic colleges (Engineering, Nursing and Business) the opportunity to use knowledge they’ve gained in the classroom to help those in extreme poverty gain better access to health care. Healthcare is free in Nicaragua, but access to doctors and prescriptions is extremely difficult, sometimes even non-existent outside of the largest cities.

Families in eight districts around Waslala travel to a village trained by Villanova nursing students in how to use cell phones to text in blood pressure, pulse, temperature and other information – for those who are ill – to a physician in Managua trying to prevent eclampsia in pregnant women and hypertension in all adults. The engineering students in the project are working with local mobile telephone operator, Claro, who have already donated 25 cell phones and airtime for 25 health workers – with plans on expanding it to 50 health workers this year. The business students have been exploring how to expand the access to mini-pharmacies located in the rural hub towns of Nicaragua that would help fund the cost of the Tele-health project.

The lives of three women and their babies have been saved to date. The women went into hemorrhaging during labor and the health leaders were able to use the technology to recognize the symptoms and contact an ambulance. This project has been ongoing for three years and funding is at approximately $100,000. Villanova hopes to hand off the operation to the local Nicaraguans in two years.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.