Muscat: Two apps meant to enhance awareness about autism and breast cancer have been developed in Oman.
According to experts, autism is best discovered at an early age, and there is an urgent need for more applications and content in Arabic to help children with autism and other learning disabilities in Oman and the Middle East.
The ‘Autism Finger Print’ app is a collaborative project between the College of Medicine & Health Sciences, the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and the Advanced Simulation Matrix Technologies.
“The app is aimed at identifying autism at an early age through the use of the Modified Checklist for Autism Toddlers (M-CHAT tool), a mechanism developed to screen toddlers between 16 and 30 months of age.
“M-CHAT can be administered and scored as part of a child’s wellness check-up, and can also be used by specialists or other professionals to screen for delayed development.
“The app also allows parents to carry out primary level screening of their child. It is based on the M-CHAT questions that are customised as per local context, and also utilises appropriate visuals and animations for greater clarity,” said one of the app developers.
Results of the screening are immediately available to the parents. This allows them to make an informed decision of what action to take next for their child. The application also helps create awareness and educates the users, especially new parents.
There are information sections within the application that allow target audiences to find out more facts and information regarding Autism. The initial consideration was to have a website, but given the extensive mobile usage statistics, it was decided to have a mobile app instead.
The other app, theNajah (Breast Cancer) app, is a project developed with the support of EmpoWomen – a government-initiated and funded advocacy that empowers women to prevent and cure breast cancer – in joint collaboration with the College of Nursing, the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), ASM Technologies, Oman Oil, Salalah Methanol and the Oman Cancer Association (OCA).
In Oman, 20 per cent of all diagnosis for cancer involvebreast cancer. In contrast to the developed countries, the cases in Oman occur at a younger age and are diagnosed at a later stage, which contributes to the higher mortality rate. A survey recently carried out by the SQU College of Nursing showed that Oman lagged significantly in awareness and early detection practices.
“In contrast to the existing mobile applications for breast cancer, focusing on the care needed before or after the diagnosis, this app has a rather holistic objective of beingthe first fully integrated mobile application capable of providing both information and awareness before diagnosis and critical support functions after, which is what women in Omanneed today,” the developer said.
She also added that more specifically, this app intends to provide a learning environment for women in general.“We want it to be accessible to those from rural and urban areas of Oman, serve as a "companion" anda source of confidence for patients and their families, make information more accessible and disseminate facts about breast cancermore effectively, thus providing a forum for Omani women concerned about breast cancer and other relevant issues.”