Frugal Thermometer workshop Uganda
Developing a Thermometer
for rural East Africa

Frugal Thermometer

Under the umbrella of the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa, a cheap and safe medical device is being developed, adapted to local realities (such as the distance to a health facility) and taking into account cultural notions (e.g. explanatory models and categories of illness classifications). Clear cut-off points will help caretakers to decide when and where to seek help.

At the bottom of the pyramid tactile measurements of body temperature (e.g. with a hand against the forehead) are often the only diagnostic recourse for mothers and other caretakers of young children to establish fever. Research has shown this strategy to be inaccurate and unreliable when compared with objective measurements of body temperature (e.g. with a thermometer). Under-diagnosis of fever may lead to delayed health seeking, whereas over-diagnosis may lead to unnecessary self-treatment with antibiotics or antimalarial medications and neglect of non-febrile conditions, for instance lung-diseases or malnutrition.

Learn more about the development process of the Frugal Thermometer: 

Watch the clip below to see the prototype:

Project members:

  • Ria Reis (MA, PhD), Professor of Medical Anthropology, Leiden University Medical Center, Dept. of Public Health and Primary Care, the Netherlands; University of Amsterdam, AISSR, the Netherlands; University of Cape Town, the Children’s Institute, South Africa.
  • Niels H. Chavannes (MD, PhD), Full Professor of Primary Care Medicine, Chair of eHealth Applications in Disease Management, Department of Public Health and Primary Care LUMC, the Netherlands.
  • JC Diehl (IR, PhD), Assistant Professor, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Design Engineering, the Netherlands.