Over 4 million children suffer from sepsis globally, with rates particularly high in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) such as Uganda. While 80-85% of infants and children will survive sepsis, up to 1/3rd will be left with delays or permanent deficits in neurodevelopment. Yet screening for these deficits is challenging in LMICs; currently there are no culturally appropriate, easy-to-use neurodevelopmental (ND) screening tools available for front line health care workers who may have limited ND training.

To address this challenge, we have developed OptiDev - a new, culturally appropriate, simple to administer digital tool for screening ND in children 0-5 years of age. Recruitment for this project began in Uganda in 2020, in partnership with Dr. Lisa Bebell from the Harvard Center for AIDS Research. Our current goal is to assess 200 newborns, infants, and children between the ages of 0 – 15 months, in order to internally validate the OptiDev tool. Future studies will focus on validating the tool in children 16 months to 5 years of age.

After validating the tool, our goal is to optimize children’s ND outcomes in Uganda after sepsis by establishing regular screening of ND delays and deficits using OptiDev. This is a tablet-based tool that will seamlessly integrate into the Smart Discharges  program in Uganda. , which aims to improve post-discharge outcomes for children treated for sepsis. Our long-term goal is work with our partners in hospitals and the government and use the information we collect on ND outcomes to design early intervention materials and improve intervention services for children in Uganda, and then in other LMICs. 

OptiDev Team  

Dr. Liisa Holsti – Principal Investigator, OptiDev; Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute; Associate Professor, UBC Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Dr. Mark Ansermino – Co-Principal Investigator, OptiDev; Director, Centre for International Child Health (CICH; Professor, UBC Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Dr. Matthew Wiens – Co-Investigator, OptiDev; Investigator, CICH; Assistant Professor, UBC Department of Anesthesia, Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Bella Hwang – Co-Investigator, OptiDev; Program Manager, CICH 

Jeffrey Bone – Co-Investigator, OptiDev; Biostatistical Lead, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute 

Dr. Lisa Bebell – Collaborator, OptiDev; Pediatrician, Investigator, Harvard Centre for AIDS Research, Global Health Institute

Dustin Dunsmuir – Data Capture/System Design, OptiDev; Global Health Technical Lead, CICH

Peter Lewis – Data Capture/System Design, OptiDev; Software Developer, CICH 

Rose Kyarisiima – PACO Research Team

Makline Twikirize – PACO Research Team

Michelle Lui – Occupational Therapist

Tessa Ley – Occupational Therapist Student, UBC

Ainsley Davidson – Occupational Therapist Student, UBC


Interested in learning more about the project? Contact Bella Hwang at Bella.Hwang@cw.bc.ca