A breastfeeding support app developed by an Oscar and Bafta-winning entrepreneur in Gloucestershire is to be trialled by the NHS.
Computer graphics and animation expert Dr Chen Mao Davies, who was part of the visual effects team for films such as Gravity and Blade Runner 2049, founded femtech company LatchAid after facing her own struggles with breastfeeding.
The app uses interactive 3D animations, artificial intelligence, virtual peer support groups and live healthcare specialists to assist women who are having problems getting their baby to latch.
The platform will be prescribed by the NHS as part of a pilot project across South Devon and Torbay, Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, as well as Lancashire and South Cumbria.
The scheme, funded by the Health Foundation NHS England and NHS Improvement, has been launched after a review found that 90% of women stop breastfeeding before they would like to, often due to pain or lack of support.
During the trial the app’s effectiveness on increasing breastfeeding rates in participating areas will be assessed. If successful, Cirencester-based Dr Davies is hopeful that it can be prescribed for free across the UK.
The partnership follows Dr Davies securing a £50,000 grant to develop LatchAid in April, after she was selected as one of 10 winners of Innovate UK’s 2021 Women in Innovation Awards.
Dr Davies said: “We believe that every mother deserves the support and empowerment to give their child the best start in life. This is at the core of everything we do.”
She added: “The grant has been pivotal in helping LatchAid launch and the award has also helped to bring me out as a leader, someone who can also inspire others to solve the biggest societal problems.”
Earlier this year, 600 people in 14 countries across six continents took part in LatchAid’s second beta trial.
Since launching on the Apple AppStore in the spring, LatchAid has reached a peak of number 46 on the site’s medical category chart, which hosts more than 300,000 health apps.
LatchAid employs six permanent staff and has a contracting team of 30 experts across four continents.
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