Medicine in Motion

                    Deep in the remote hills of India’s Tamil Nadu region, people live disconnected from basic healthcare that is taken for granted in other parts of the world. Village by village, a specially equipped Ford Endeavour brought them health services, communications, knowledge and data. In the process, Ford and its partners reimagined rural healthcare.

                    In southern India, green hills rise up out of thick mists and an even thicker jungle. Here, serene villages with panoramic views of peaks, waterfalls, temples and pools draw nature-loving tourists.

                    But there is danger and difficulty in such remote beauty, especially for the women and children who live in these villages without access to quality healthcare. Infant mortality is high, and without access to transportation, 50% of pregnancies result in the death of a mother or her baby. Ford Motor Company set out to help find a solution with the Project SUMURR program for Sustainable Urban Mobility with Uncompromised Rural Reach.

                    “The biggest single app we have is the car itself. The product gets us from A to B… so we look at the product that has been with us for 100 years, and we think about how we can make it more accessible to more people in conditions that might be very different from our own experience.”

                    Ford and its partners began a nine-month pilot program to improve pregnancy outcomes in rural India. Since cellular signals are nearly nonexistent in Tamil Nadu’s isolated hills, the team’s Ford Endeavour was equipped with a wireless cloud. With that connection, the partners were able to use four specially developed software applications to connect to doctors and medical records. With the Endeavor, they were able to help volunteer nurses and pregnant mothers travel to and from hospitals and remote villages.

                    Project SUMURR Partners

                    Ford Motor Company

                    Tamil Nadu Directorate of Public Health & Preventive Medicine

                    Indian Institute of Technology Madras 

                    United States Department of State

                    Hand in Hand India

                    George Washington University

                    University of Michigan

                    The program worked with public health database for expectant mothers in Tamil Nadu and the challenge was that it was incomplete, not current and had erroneous entries. By using mobile voice-to-text technology, the partners were able to demonstrate real-time data-entry to better serve the rural mothers. And instead of walking two kilometers downhill before giving birth, the all-terrain capabilities of the Ford Endeavor helped expectant mothers safely travel to healthcare facilities.

                    Project SUMURR Pilot Program

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                    Ford Endeavor






                    Children Born


                    Women and children served

                    When the program was complete, it had helped enable successful childbirth for 45 women with high-risk pregnancies. Additionally, it set up 27 pediatric and gynecology camps in Tamil Nadu’s villages. Furthermore, Ford and its partners helped 1,600 women and children receive additional healthcare. And as the program traveled to 54 other villages to facilitate maternal and pediatric health awareness, it helped another 3,100 people. Now, a new generation of children is growing up in Tamil Nadu with access to resources that were never available before.

                    This year, Ford is continuing to seek out new ideas for future SUMURR efforts. From July 30 to October 30, 2014, the SUMURR mHealth Challenge will focus on leveraging information to improve health services in more rural areas accessible from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. Ford is hoping that software developers will build mobile phone solutions that give healthcare workers in the field better voice recognition capabilities and improved location-based services for rural residents.

                    Ford is looking for urban solutions as well. In the “golden hour” after a person sustains a traumatic injury, there’s still time to save a life — if the person is transported to a hospital in time. After 60 minutes, the likelihood of survival drops dramatically. In Ford’s Innovate Mobility Challenge series, one task challenges developers to use existing, publicly available data to find ways to improve the odds of survival during the golden hour, whether by saving time getting to the hospital or by making patient information more accessible to EMTs, doctors and other care providers.

                    In addition to challenging developers, Ford is conducting a study that analyzes the roles of the people who provide assistance after a traumatic incident, such as EMTs, doctors or bystanders. This research will help provide insight into how things unfold in the hour after a traumatic injury. By interviewing people who have acted during the golden hour in India and encouraging developers to find ways to put that information to use, Ford is going even further to improve health outcomes. “Ford is also offering to be a matchmaker between developers and professionals providing trauma care,” says Wingfield, “with the goal to encourage solutions that go beyond the challenge contests.”