Innovation can often feel like it is charging towards the highest tech solution; the algorithm to solve all problems, the smallest of technologies, the smartest of computers. But it’s still the low tech solutions that hold a lot of the potential.

Across the developing world, medical professionals face a problem: how do you provide high-quality care with a limited budget and limited access to high tech medical devices? One area of particular interest to the World Health Organization is finding a better way to detect malaria. And well, they may have found a step forward.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 around 445,000 people died of this disease, with 216 million clinical episodes reported for the treatment of malaria. This is due to a parasite commonly found in poor, tropical and subtropical areas of the world, and is transmitted via mosquitos. Astonishingly, nearly half the world’s population, 3.2 billion people, live in places where they are at risk of contracting malaria 1.

With such a global impact, malaria is one of the greatest problems in public health. While prevention efforts like bed nets are remarkably helpful, it’s the actual detection of malaria that still remains a problem.

So, what can we do to save more lives?

That’s where the ingenuity of “low tech” solutions comes into play. When University of Southern California professor of engineering and materials science Andrea Armani heard about the need for a better way to detect malaria, she set her students to work to find a solution. The answer? Something as familiar to all of us as lasers and magnets.

Take a listen to this fantastic example of ingenuity from NPR.

Via: NPR 2

How malaria works…

This got me curious. What does this device look like? Could it really be so simple? And wait, what exactly is malaria and how does it even work in the first place?

Luckily, I didn’t have to look far and found this great little piece from the innovators at The University of Southern California that explains it all!

We’ve paired this video with thought-provoking discussion questions perfect for the classroom in this touchstone on our education platform, EWCed!

A Brighter Future with Low-Tech Solutions

Incredible! Right? What’s even more incredible are the number of other innovators out there working on low tech solutions to some of the world’s greatest inequities in medicine!

Just take a look at this article we wrote on the work of the Prakash Lab at Stanford. They create paper tools that allow medical staff in all corners of the globe to treat patients in sophisticated ways!

14 minutes

How Paper Tools will Change the World

When it comes to innovations that will change the world, shouldn't we consider how many hands will have access to them? Check out this brilliant TED Talk from Manu Prakash, one of the remarkable brains behind the paper technologies of the future that will revolutionize how we think about science!

Read More

How remarkable is it to hear stories not just about the worlds biggest problems, but of the real, practical solutions being used to solve them? We are headed in a positive direction, and the more we celebrate those working hard to combat our world’s problems, the more we encourage the next generation of innovators to do the same!

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!


Check out more inspiring innovations!

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  1. “Malaria.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 May 2018, Accessed 12 Sept. 2018.
  2. Palca, Joe. “How A Cheap Magnet Might Help Detect Malaria.” NPR, NPR, 24 May 2018, Accessed 12 Sept. 2018.
  3. “Detecting Malaria: Can a Magnet, a Detector and a Laser Screen for Malaria out of the Lab?” YouTube, USCViterbi, 23 May 2018, Accessed 12 Sept. 2018.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV