From L-R: Kickstart Ventures President Minette Navarrete, Ashoka Philippines Chairman Rico Gonzalez, MilkTrack Founder Kevin Facun with teammates Mark Sampayan and Richie Ryan Tan, and Globe Telecom Head of Innovation Mikey Garrovillo
The importance and value of breast milk for newborn or sick babies can never be understated. Stories have been written numerous times as to how babies' lives have depended much on the availability of breast milk while its scarcity brought dire consequences.
As a research project undergraduate, Kevin Facun and his team were tasked to create innovative solutions to answer basic problems in his community in Malolos, Bulacan. One of these concerns involved health care, particularly in hospitals in his home town where he noticed a peculiar need for breast milk.
Facun said they visited neonatal units and saw how breast milk is considered a basic necessity for babies for them to survive. "We heard lots of stories on the need for breastmilk, especially for premature babies and it's so hard to find trusted sources. What most people and mothers don't know is that breast milk is very important for premature or sick babies because formula milk is hard to digest."
The Philippine Milk Code strictly implements breastfeeding in all hospitals nationwide, but the lack of available breast milk is still prevalent, particularly in government hospitals. He said that there are 11 milk banks nationwide and only four are government owned. Private milk banks sell breast milk at P500 per bag, and a baby needs at least 3 bags a day. "So you can imagine how hard it is, especially among mothers from poor families. There's really a huge demand but supply is limited. Couple this with lack of awareness and education so we came up with an application to help for supply to cope with the demand because we know that saving lives is of importance," declares Facun.
Thus, Facun's team came up with "MilkTrack," a mobile application that will facilitate the logistical and information dissemination concerns when it comes to sourcing breast milk. Among its key features are information focused on storage of milk, proper expression and others that aim to correct common misconceptions about breast milk, plus a breastfeeding location tracker through Global Positioning System (GPS) that can zero in on government establishments, some malls and even academic institutions where breastfeeding stations are located.
Users can also use MilkTrack to sell, buy or donate milk or place an order as a beneficiary, and have the milk delivered right at one's doorstep. "We follow the guidelines of the Philippine Human Milk Bank. Mother donors need to undergo a strict testing process on HIV and Hepatitis B. We also track the medical records of donor applicants. We started this in our area in Malolos, Bulacan that served as a pilot community."
MilkTrack received a big break when it was picked as one of the top five winners of Globe Future Makers Program which seeks to influence and build a whole ecosystem of social innovators. The program received 135 entries from individuals and startups from all over the country who want to make a difference in society through the use of technology.
"We know that the award will take us to an even better place to help realize our dream. With the magnificent partners at Globe, Ashoka, and Kickstart and their invaluable mentoring, we are confident that we will realize that dream," Facun said.
"We believe in the advocacy of Milktrack and what they want to achieve. Globe wants to build a better world and espouse the creation of social innovators and game-changers in order to create a brighter tomorrow especially for the next generation," said Chelle Gray, Director for Globe Citizenship.
MilkTrack plans to put up its own facility instead of going to the nearest milk bank to have the milk pasteurized. "Other than selling the product, we wanted a modern-day bayanihan initiative because this concerns the lives of mothers and babies. Through crowdsourcing, we want this to eventually resort to a healthier nation," he said.
Facun figured its best to focus on his hometown first within 3 months but they are already eyeing Metro Manila since it has the biggest and greatest demand. The Philippine General Hospital alone, he said, needs at least 10 liters of breast milk per day.
Although MilkTrack primarily operates through its mobile app and website, Facun said there are also plans to establish a direct partnership with hospitals and doctors, with priority on Pediatrics and Obstetrics-Gynecology because they already have the network.