Sureshkumar Kamalakannan recently completed his PhD at the School, during which he developed ‘Care for Stroke’, a web-based intervention to help stroke patients in India recover at home. Sureshkumar was nominated for the recent International Student Innovation Award, which celebrates London’s most talented and innovative international students.
I was trained in Occupational Therapy and Public Health in south India. Since 2003, I was working in the field of Occupational Therapy and public health as an academic, researcher and practitioner. Enthusiasm and passion to contribute to people with disabilities provided me with an opportunity to learn about how health and social care systems work even in developed countries like the UK.
Before I started my research degree at the School, I was working as a stroke specialist Occupational Therapist in London. My job was to help the stroke survivors to manage their disabilities at home. The stroke survivors were discharged from hospitals. Having learned about the concept of early supported discharge for people affected by stroke in the UK instigated my passion to look at similar kind of intervention in low and middle-income country like India. The rationale of course was not to reduce the prolonged hospital waiting list but to meet the increasing demands and rehabilitation needs of the stroke survivors in these countries where the resources for rehabilitation was very limited and the existing services for disability management and rehabilitation in inaccessible.
I was fortunate enough to receive the Wellcome Trust – Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) capacity building strategic grant to carry forward my passion as a part of my PhD. Being a premier global institution for public health education and research, I intended to pursue my PhD at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. It was a dream comes true for someone like me who comes from a middle class family in India to get an opportunity to pursue a research degree at the School in the UK. I am very grateful to my sponsors for helping me achieve my academic passion.
My PhD was all about development and evaluation of a smartphone-enabled, carer-supported educational intervention for management of disabilities following stroke in India. I systematically developed this intervention and named it ‘Care for Stroke’. ‘Care for Stroke’ is an evidence-based, culturally-specific, patient-centred, technology-driven educational intervention that is designed to help stroke survivors in India to manage their post-stroke disabilities. It consists of several 2-3 minute videos of multi-disciplinary stroke education material in vernacular language (Tamil) organized in five major sections namely: information about stroke; home-based exercises; functional skills; activities of daily living; and assistive devices.
The intervention is web-based which helps anyone with an internet connection to access this intervention using an electronic display device like a smartphone, laptop, desktop, smart-tv etc. The content of this intervention comes from:
1. Rigorous evaluation of the evidence for it through systematic reviews
2. Mixed-methods research to understand the needs of the stroke survivors and caregivers in an Indian context
3. Group of global experts in the field of neurological rehabilitation
The intervention was tested for its feasibility and acceptability in an Indian context. Nearly 95% of the stroke survivors and all the caregivers (100%) rated this intervention as ‘Excellent’ based on its overall credibility, usability and user-friendliness.
‘Care for Stroke’ is an innovative educational intervention that can empower stroke survivors and their families to be cognisant of their disability, ways to manage it and how to make appropriate decisions on their road to recovery. The current context for stroke rehabilitation provides a reasonable opportunity for public health practitioners to optimise interventions such as ‘Care for Stroke’ to efficiently bridge the gaps in accessibility of stroke rehabilitation services and enhance the continuum of care for stroke survivors worldwide. The intervention is specifically pertinent to India and many other low- and middle-income countries where resources for improving access to stroke rehabilitation services are inadequate.
I was shortlisted as a nominee for having developed this intervention as a part of my PhD education in the UK through the London Mayor’s International Student Innovation Award. The International Student Showcase 2016 was a celebration of student innovation and the outstanding contribution international students make to London each year and an event that will reiterate the Mayor, Sadiq Khan’s message that London Is Open to talent and international students from all over the world. The award competition had nearly 350 applications and 36 shortlisted nominees and being a runner-up of this event is a great honour for me. This would definitely drive me through the coming years to evaluate the clinical and cost effectiveness of my innovation and contribute to global disability and health.