News items Stairway to Impact Award for Thomas van den Heuvel
1 December 2021

Radboudumc researcher Thomas van den Heuvel receives the Stairway to Impact Award from Dutch Research Council NWO. He receives this prize for the development of the BabyChecker, a smartphone application that allows midwives to make ultrasounds during pregnancies, with the aim of reducing maternal mortality in resourse-limited countries. The BabyChecker is currently used in several African countries.

Every day, more than 800 women die as a consequence of their pregnancy; the vast majority of them live in African countries. To improve monitoring of pregnant women in these countries, Thomas van den Heuvel developed the BabyChecker. This is a smartphone application that allows midwives to make an ultrasound from pregnant women. With the help of Artificial Intelligence, the BabyChecker detects high-risk pregnancies, for example women with a low-lying placenta or a fetus in breech presentation. This makes it possible for women at risk to travel in time to a hospital for the delivery of the baby.

NWO rewards researcher Thomas van den Heuvel with the Stairway to Impact Award, specifically intended for scientific research with a major social impact. He receives this award because he not only developed this application, but also ensured that the BabyChecker is used in various African countries. For this, he works together with Delft Imaging. As Van den Heuvel explains: "The BabyChecker is very easy to use. A midwife receives a short instruction before she can start working with it. The app does not require an internet connection and works in combination with a low-cost ultrasound device. An ultrasound device in the Netherlands costs around 30,000-100,000 euros, but the BabyChecker only costs 3,000 euros,"

Ultrasound for youth health physicians and general practitioners

As far as Van den Heuvel is concerned, his work doesn’t stop here. Together with his colleagues professors Chris de Korte and Bram van Ginneken, he is developing more apps with this technology that can be used in more situations, starting with youth health physicians and general practitioners in the Netherlands. Van den Heuvel: "We are currently developing an application that makes it possible to diagnose developmental hip dysplasia in newborns. Newborns with suspected hip dysplasia are currently referred to the hospital for an ultrasound. Five out of six ultrasounds prove that no hip dysplasia is present, so it would be much more convenient for parents and newborns if the ultrasound could be made at the child health centre. This could also reduce health-care costs." The researchers also want to make it possible for general practitioners to detect all kind of diseases with this device, for example abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Van den Heuvel receives 50,000 euros for his research.

More information


Pauline Dekhuijzen

wetenschaps- en persvoorlichter

neem contact op

Related news items


Want to be sustainable and cool? Choose fans more and aircon less Keep cool and help the environment

12 April 2022

A recent published study led by the University of Sydney, has found using indoor fans more often allows people to reduce their air conditioner use without changing how hot they feel, paving a way for reducing future energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Coen Bongers, is one of the co-authors.

read more

Aiosyn and Radboudumc are the first in the Netherlands to implement AI in the clinical pathology workflow Digital pathology slides will be screened with a quality control algorithm

4 April 2022

Aiosyn, a company that develops AI-powered computational pathology analysis for clinical diagnostics, and the department of pathology of Radboudumc, will collaborate to implement an algorithm for quality control of digitized histopathology tissue slides.

read more

Body composition is more important than BMI for renal cancer survival rates

11 January 2022

Body composition is important for survival rates in renal cell cancer. Research from the Radboudumc shows that low muscle quality and low organ fat are associated with poor survival. This involves different stages of renal cancer, ranging from stage I-III to stage IV.

read more

AI helps the defibrillator think

4 October 2021

In the future, the AED and the defibrillator will be able to do more than they do today. Now the devices can only give patients who need to be resuscitated a shock, but in time it will be possible, with the help of artificial intelligence, to say more about the condition of the patient.

read more