Despite efforts of international health organizations and NGOs,
child mortality still remains high.
Every day 353,000 children are born around the world, a majority
of them in developing countries where there is a lack of proper record
keeping, resulting in a lack of proper health care. By the age of five,
more than five million children per year lose their lives to
‘A first-of-its-kind study has demonstrated that digital scans of a young child's fingerprint can be correctly recognized one year later.’
How can these young lives be saved? By their thumbprint, says Michigan State University professor Anil Jain.
Jain and his team of biometrics researchers demonstrated in a first-of-its-kind study
that digital scans of a young child's fingerprint can be correctly
recognized one year later. In particular, the team showed they can
correctly identify children six months old over 99% of the time
based on their two thumbprints. A child could then be identified at each
medical visit by a simple fingerprint scan, allowing them to get proper
medical care such as life-saving immunizations or food supplements.
"Children are still dying because it's been believed that it wasn't
possible to use body traits such as fingerprints to identify children.
We've just proven it is possible," said Jain, a University Distinguished
Professor of computer science and engineering.
"As the technology further evolves, there are many social good
applications for this new technique with far-reaching impacts on a
global scale," said Jain. "At a touch of a finger, health care workers
could have access to a child's medical history. Whether in a developing
nation, refugee camp, homeless shelter or, heaven forbid, a kidnapping
situation, a child's identity could be verified if they had their
fingerprint scanned at birth and included in a registry."
One such application is saving lives by tracking vaccination
records. Vaccination records are traditionally kept on paper charts, but
paper is easily lost or destroyed. Fingerprints are forever, and, once
captured in a database, could be accessed by medical professionals to
reliably record immunization schedules and other medical information.
In additional to medical histories, capturing a child's fingerprint has the following uses:
- National Identification. Many countries have some form
of national identification system, such as the Unique Identification
Authority of India, which enrolls any resident over five years old using
biometric identifiers. With approximately 25 million births each year,
India would like to lower the enrollment age. Capturing a baby's
fingerprints at age six months or older would assist them in this process
and ensure proper identification from an early age.
- Lifetime Identities. A digital fingerprint identity
system will give children an identity for a lifetime to help combat
children and at-risk adults from human trafficking, refugee crisis
situations, kidnappings or lack of basic services.
- Improving nutrition. In the least-developed countries,
where 14% suffer from undernutrition, tracking children can help
aid initiatives for providing and improving nutrition services and food.
"The impact of child fingerprinting will be enormous in improving
lives of the disadvantaged," said Sandeep Ahuja, CEO of Operation ASHA,
an NGO dedicated to bringing tuberculosis treatment and health services
to India. "It could save five million lives just by ensuring implementation
of well-known measures immediately after birth, like breast feeding, by
tracking interaction of health workers and newborns in underdeveloped
The study by Jain and his team was conducted at Saran Ashram
hospital in Dayalbagh, India, where fingerprints of 309 children between
the age of 0-5 years were collected over the course of one year. The
fingerprint data was processed to show that state-of-the-art fingerprint
capture and recognition technology offers a viable solution for
recognizing children enrolled at age six months or older.
"Given these encouraging results, we plan to continue the
longitudinal study by capturing fingerprints of the same subjects
annually for four more years," said Jain. "This will allow us to better
evaluate the use of fingerprints for providing lifelong identity."