Self-check app to branch out in Africa

Sunday Tribune - - KZN BUSINESS REPORT -

A FREE app that lets pa­tients do quick health check-ups on them­selves is the cen­tre­piece of a Gates Foun­da­tion-backed project to bring bet­ter care to poor re­gions of Africa, Asia and South Amer­ica.

The med­i­cal app, also re­ceiv­ing fund­ing from the Swiss-based Fon­da­tion Bot­nar, will be the first of its kind avail­able in Swahili, and will also be of­fered free in Ro­ma­nia, tech start-up Ada Health Gmbh said this week.

The project with Bot­nar will open up Ada’s ar­ti­fi­cial-in­tel­li­gence-en­abled health ad­vice to at least 2 mil­lion peo­ple in ar­eas with lit­tle ac­cess to hos­pi­tals and providers.

Poor coun­tries around the globe are suf­fer­ing from se­vere short­ages of health­care work­ers, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, with the most se­vere chal­lenges in Africa.

Ada’s soft­ware is de­signed to help pa­tients de­ter­mine whether they need care and put them in touch with nearby ser­vices when they’re re­quired, re­liev­ing pres­sure on health sys­tems.

“It helps you get a bet­ter idea of the med­i­cal con­di­tion that’s caus­ing symp­toms, and then helps you make an in­formed de­ci­sion about the next steps,” said Daniel Nathrath, Ada’s co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“In Tan­za­nia, of­ten the best op­tion will be to find out where the clos­est com­mu­nity health worker is.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion is the world’s rich­est char­ity, with $51 bil­lion (R750bn) in en­dow­ment as­sets as of the end of last year.

While it didn’t give the size of the foun­da­tion’s sup­port, Ada said it would use fund­ing from Gates and Bot­nar to hire staff for the projects.

Ada will also re­search how self­check-ups pow­ered by AI can sup­port health­care in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, with an em­pha­sis on pre­vent­ing po­ten­tially deadly epi­demics.

The soft­ware will be cus­tomised for cer­tain coun­tries by col­lect­ing data on the preva­lence of dis­eases, like malaria, that are more com­mon in the de­vel­op­ing world, Nathrath said.

Crit­ics charge that the ef­fec­tive­ness of such apps re­mains un­cer­tain by tra­di­tional sci­en­tific stan­dards. |

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