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Afsana Khan

The absence of a proper emergency medical system like 911 is undeniably one of the biggest shortcomings of our country. At present, Bangladesh does not have the infrastructural capability to establish and maintain such an elaborate system. 

Jennifer Farrell, a Duke Alumnus and Tulane University-educated doctor from Santa Monica, California, founder and CEO of CriticaLink understood this. But what makes her special is that, unlike most of us, she looked at what Bangladesh 'can' offer - reliable manpower and cheap but easily accessible mobile technology and telecommunication. 

Simply put, CriticaLink is a mobile-technology driven, volunteer based emergency medical system designed for places that have no emergency support system in place. CriticaLink was founded in April 2014 as a non-profit social enterprise that aimed to train volunteer 'First Responders' in emergency medical skills such as bleeding control, CPR, burn care, splinting of fractures etc. The goal is plain and simple – to save lives. 

CriticaLink trains volunteers as emergency First Responders in triage, moving patients, protecting head/spine, bleeding control, fracture care/splinting, burn care, choking, and CPR. The volunteers are then connected through the CriticaLink mobile app that allows somebody in trouble to call for help through the application. The app will then alert nearby First Responders of the crisis, along with notifying the location of the patient. 

CriticaLink had its first introductory meeting in April 2014 at the EMK centre in Dhanmondi which was attended by 118 people. Team leaders were selected to represent seven key areas of Dhaka namely Gulshan-Banani, Uttara, Mirpur, Dhanmondi, Muhammadpur, Lalbagh and Old Dhaka. The training sessions for volunteers began in the same month. The training sessions are followed by exam sessions, in order to, certify eligible First Responders. 

CriticaLink training sessions are mostly centered on universities as they comprise of a set of people most aptly suited to do the kind of volunteer work required by the enterprise. It has also collaborated with non-profit organizations like the Jaago Foundation and One-degree initiative on Children’s Day and the 100 smiles event respectively. Till date, CriticaLink has trained approximately 1500+ people in EMS, with more than 950 registered volunteers, among whom 300 have achieved the status of official First Responders.

Photo: (Top) CriticaLink Team attending injured children as part of their day long program. (Bottom) Leader Jennifer Farell demonstrating first aid techniques to a trainee.

CriticaLink officially launched its mobile app and call centre in October of 2014. After training sessions at Dhaka University and a final exam session, first ID badges and credentials to First Responders were given out. The following months saw CriticaLink take over the spotlight a lot of events alongside the continuous training sessions. 

Farrell plans on expanding the scope of CriticaLink to other parts of the country. Training sessions have already been conducted in Chittagong last year and plans for this year are centered around Mymensingh. Theoretically, CriticaLink can be implemented in any part of the world in need of a proper Emergency Medicine System. 

In early 2015, CriticaLink submitted their mobile app to a national competition sponsored by the Ministry of Information Communications Technology of Bangladesh and won the National App Award in the Health and Environment category. Subsequently, it was selected among the 12 mobile apps to represent Bangladesh in the World Summit Awards, an international competition hosted by the United Nations Summit on Information and Technology. The theme for this year was “mobile apps that make a difference.” In October 2015, the WSA announced the CriticaLink App as a World Champion in the Health category.

Bangladesh’s telecommunication industry is a strength that can be used to solve a multitude of problems faced by the people of this country. CriticaLink is a step in the right direction. The success of the pilot phase will open up an entirely new set of possibilities.
Photo: A cheerful Jennifer and her Team upon conducting a training session.


All photographs used in this article are courtesy of CriticaLink.

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