Neotree is a UK charity that develops technology to empower healthcare professionals in low resource settings to count and care for every newborn.
The system is the result of seven years of rigorous academic research led by University College London (UCL), and innovation in partnership with local clinicians and digital specialists. It’s the only such intervention in development combining data collection, clinical decision support and education to improve the quality of care for newborns and strengthen health systems. Using it could save over half a million babies each year. The Neotree system is the recipient of the Wellcome Trust Innovator Award, and currently operates in hospitals across Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Neotree works in collaboration with a team of researchers across UCL (UK), University of Zimbabwe, and the Malawian College of Medicine; tech developers in Zimbabwe, South Africa and the UK; healthcare professionals at the Kamuzu Central Hospital Lilongwe, Sally Mugabe Central Hospital Harare and Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital Chinhoyi; and our implementing partners – Parent and Child Health Initiative Trust (PACHI) Malawi and Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI) ZImbabwe.
Collaboration is at the heart of Neotree’s approach. Neotree collaborates closely with healthcare professionals, families and communities, hospitals, Ministries of Health, academic partners, NGOs, and donors. Our technology is developed in partnership with local clinicians to ensure it is user-friendly and has local ownership.
Neotree’s focus is on reducing newborn mortality: specifically targeting those deaths that can be prevented using simple, proven interventions.
Neotree is committed to transparency and honesty.
Neotree is innovating for immediate impact – the platform is open source and fully replicable, so countries that adopt it have complete ownership of both the technology and the resulting data.
Dr Michelle Heys is passionate about improving global equity in child and adolescent health outcomes, about giving a voice to our most vulnerable and marginalised populations and to mobilising communities and innovation to improve the health of children and young people.
Along with Erin Kesler, she conceptualised the Neotree and she has led this project since 2014.
Michelle is a Child Population Health Scientist combining clinical expertise in newborn and child health with expertise in public health practice and research, and in health services research and quality improvement. She has over 26 years of experience in clinical newborn and child health in the UK, Australia and Hong Kong; and during the last 16 years has combined clinical care with a growing portfolio of global child and adolescent population health research.
The Head of Paediatrics and Child Health department at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in the Ministry of Health (Malawi), a major referral centre in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. Her clinical area of interest is Neonatal Care and she also fully involved in all areas of general paediatrics including management. She is a Co-PI on the NeoTree project and also a Co-PI and site leader of the New Born Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST 360) program. She sits on the National Neonatal Technical Working Group, a member of the National Polio Executive Committee and she is a board member of Parent and Child Health Initiative (PACHI) Trust. In addition, she is a lead consultant in the PACHIMAKE (Paediatric Alliance for Child Health Improvements at Kamuzu Central Hospital and its Environs) group. Lastly, Dr Msandeni is a part-tome clinical lecturer at University of Malawi- College of Medicine.
In the year 2006, she graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Malawi – College of Medicine. Thereafter, she went through internship for 18 months before joining the Ministry of Health up to date. In the Ministry of Health, she has served as a Senior Medical Officer and District Health Officer, overseeing delivery of health services in the districts of Dowa, Lilongwe and Chiradzulu, for a period of 3 years. Later, she was granted a National Aids Commission of Malawi grant to pursue specialist training in Paediatrics. During the period, she received yet another scholarship, a Thomas Mark award to study in the University of Liverpool for a Master of Science degree in Tropical Paediatrics. After successfully finishing her studies in Liverpool, she proceeded to the University of Pretoria to complete the paediatric training. She is one of the exceptional paediatricians who returned back to Malawi to serve her community after graduating in 2015.
Simba has worked with newborns for 15 years in one of the busiest neonatal units in Zimbabwe, which has a 100 bed capacity. The challenge of working with limited resources has built resilience, and a quest to explore simple technologies and low-cost interventions to improve newborn and maternal survival in low-income settings. This led Simba and colleagues at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital to adopt and further develop the Neotree platform. Through Neotree, data capture and use dramatically improved, and started to change not only clinical care but wider policy within the unit around how best to care for babies. The electronic medical records system enables routine audits to be carried out and the data to be shared with staff on a monthly basis.
Simba is a pediatrician, epidemiologist and medical educator at the University of Zimbabwe, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Yali Sassoon is a technologist, and a committed believer in the power of open source technology to enable change for the better: outside of the Neotree is cofounder and Chief Product Officer at Snowplow, a technology company in the data space. Yali joined the Neotree team in 2019 to support and scale the technology development.
Sophie Sutcliffe Goodman joined Neotree as its Executive Director in August 2021. She lives in South Africa with her two small girls, and is passionate about the exciting work Neotree is doing to reduce preventable neonatal deaths.
Sophie is a public health professional with more than a decade of experience in leadership and management roles. She was the Advocacy and Campaign Director at Save the Children in Nigeria, and the UK Director at Crisis Action, an organisation that campaigns to protect civilians in conflicts. Sophie founded Crisis Action’s office in South Africa, and has been involved in several campaigns, including launching World Vision’s first global campaign ‘Child Health Now’. Prior to that Sophie was in politics, working as the Senior Political Adviser to the UK’s Shadow International Development Secretary, and for David Miliband on the 2010 General Election and his Labour Party leadership campaign. She holds an MSc with distinction in International Relations, a first-class degree in Politics, and is currently finishing her MSc in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Katherine joined the board of Neotree in 2019 and holds the role of Treasurer. Katherine is a new mother herself and is passionate about the opportunity Neotree provides – leveraging technology to revolutionise neonatal health in low resource settings.
Katherine Herzog Parsons is Head of Low Carbon Trading Platforms for BP. To this end, Katherine invests in companies globally which generate carbon credits and technology companies which enable the scale up of Natural Climate Solutions.
Katherine is on the board of Finite Carbon (the leading North America developer in forest carbon offsets) and the UK government’s female entrepreneurship council. Katherine is also a governor at Westminster City School.
Katherine has a background in finance and investing in technology. She holds a BA in Politics and Philosophy from Durham University, an MA from the War Studies Department, King’s College London, and is an Associate Member of the Association of Corporate Treasurers.
Dr Felicity FItzgerald is a specialist in children’s infectious diseases who does both clinical and research work. Her research work is based in Zimbabwe at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital in Harare, where she assisted in the first set up of the Neotree and is particularly keen to see how the use of Neotree can help in reducing the spread of infection between babies on the neonatal unit. She’s previously worked in South Africa and Sierra Leone on diseases including HIV and Ebola virus disease. For her, the best thing about Neotree is the enthusiasm of the nurses and doctors that are using it in Zimbabwean and Malawian hospitals – it is a joy to work on a project that has been so whole-heartedly embraced by the hospital staff.
Tim is passionate about global health and bringing sustainable development to the areas and populations that are most in need. Tim has been involved with Neotree since 2018, as a volunteer before becoming the Neotree project manager in October 2019. His passion lies in building local relationships, and empowering and supporting local staff to take ownership of the project to ensure sustainable, locally led solutions. The beauty of Neotree is the immediate impact the platform has when it goes live, and healthcare workers describe how it improves their work and quality of care the moment they start using it.
Erin Kesler is a pediatric acute care nurse practitioner working in the neonatal/infant intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She received her MSN degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She specializes in the care of neonates requiring surgical care. She was one of the founding members of the Neotree while completing her MSc in International Child Health at University College London. She is currently a transcultural nursing doctoral student at Duquesne University.
“I am passionate about Neotree because it empowers health care workers to provide quality care for newborns in a sustainable and innovative way. The Neotree will not only ensure that every newborn is counted and that valuable data is gathered, but has the potential to save newborn lives and reduce morbidity throughout the lifespan.”
Dr Caroline Crehan is one of three co-founders of the Neotree charity (along with Erin Kesler and Michelle Heys). She has been instrumental in developing and piloting the Neotree app, especially in Malawi, building upon early prototype and concepts developed informed by feedback from healthcare professionals in Bangladesh.
Partners & Collaborators
Thank you to Naughton-Cliffe Mathews, UCL Grand Challenges, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Healthcare Infection Society and the National Institute of Health Research for their critical funding; to current academic funders including Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council and Viiv healthcare; to Leyla Larsson, Signe Kær Bennetsen and Ellie Catherall for all their hard work at Neotree; to Creative Clinic, Lauren Kesler, and Charlotte Ashton, for their photos and help with the video and website; and to all those who have raised money and donated privately to Neotree. We appreciate every donation that has helped to grow Neotree to where it is today.
Neotree in action
Photography credits: Lauren Kesler (Malawi) and Charlotte Ashton (Zimbabwe)