Travel Grants

Dr Yumna Albertus

Dr Yumna Albertus and her team received a 2020 SCI Collaboration Grant to attend ISCoS 2020:Virtual. The team comprises:

  • Dr Yumna Albertus, Exercise Physiologist, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Dr Sacha West, Exercise Physiologist, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa
  • Ms Claire Shackleton, Exercise Scientist, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Mr Robert Evans, Biokineticist, University of Cape Town, South Africa

This research team has a keen interest in technology and rehabilitation in spinal cord injury (SCI). They have recently completed the only randomised control trial in Africa investigating the effect of robotic over-ground walking therapy over 24 weeks of rehabilitation in individuals with C5-C7 lesion. The study was extremely expensive to conduct and the application of such an expensive device in community centres, is not feasible. The study highlighted the benefits of standing and moving in an upright position, which highlighted the need to provide low-cost innovative technology for SCI rehabilitation in South Africa. The group’s interdisciplinary network will focus on redesigning and engineering rehabilitation equipment for people with SCI. Further, they aim to produce low-cost device designs, followed by randomized control studies in the SCI population. They aim to work with the South African government, policy-makers and SCI Non-Profit Organisations for the implementation of these devices in health-care settings.

Dr Yumna Albertus and research group

L-R: Yumna Albertus, Sacha West, Claire Shackleton, Robert Evans

The research group share their experiences from the conference.

“Our group thoroughly enjoyed attending the ISCoS Conference this year. Being a virtual conference didn’t take away our ability to interact and converse with other attendees, the fact we were able to speak directly to the presenters during their presentations was unique. By having this virtual platform we were able to reach out to other researchers and discuss possible projects. One project that really stood out for us was the COPE project led by Ms Nishu Tyagi (Indian Spinal Cord Injury Centre) and Prof Krassioukov (University of British Columbia). In this workshop, the researchers highlighted the aims, preliminary survey data  and challenges faced, which are applicable to the spinal cord injury (SCI) population in South Africa.

The COPE project aims to provide better community inclusion support for people with SCI by delivering comprehensive health living skills, video-image based training of patients, caregivers and professionals. COPE could possibly assist people with SCI in South Africa, as we face similar barriers to SCI rehabilitation as in India; with low resources, limited human capacity and transport issues, and therefore Telehealth could benefit our patients. The Southern African Innovative Rehabilitation Network is currently being formed, where we aim to set the framework for designing and implementing low-cost innovative equipment into our limited resourced rehabilitation facilities. The COPE project could be implemented on this platform, and Dr Albertus will be meeting Nishu and her team soon to discuss the possible collaboration for 2021-2022.”


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