Health

How drone, mobile-based platform bridging health care gap in Africa  

Innovations are happening in the planet's remotest places hosting the poorest, and they aim to solve Africa’s biggest challenge of giving access to health care

 
By Richard Mahapatra, Subhojit Goswami
Last Updated: Wednesday 14 March 2018 | 12:27:36 PM
Karin Kallander, senior research advisor at the Malaria Consortium, explains upSCALE digital platform at the AIDF conference. Credit: Subhojit Goswami / DTE
Karin Kallander, senior research advisor at the Malaria Consortium, explains upSCALE digital platform at the AIDF conference. Credit: Subhojit Goswami / DTE Karin Kallander, senior research advisor at the Malaria Consortium, explains upSCALE digital platform at the AIDF conference. Credit: Subhojit Goswami / DTE

By the time you read this article a resident of a remote village in Mozambique might have raised a health emergency alert over his mobile phone and got connected to the nearest community health worker. With timely intervention, there is a possibility that the life will be saved. Not very far away, in Malawi, a drone must have taken off with a cargo of a blood sample for testing HIV infestation of an infant. Usually, it takes 23 day to get the diagnosis done and treatment rendered.  But the drone would make this possible in a few days.

Both innovations involve cutting-edge technology created by rich and connected people. But the above experiments are happening in the planet's remotest places hosting the poorest, and they aim to solve Africa’s biggest challenge of giving access to health care.

Talking about ‘upSCALE’ platform at the Aid & International Development Forum Africa Summit in Nairobi on Tuesday, Karin Kallander, a senior research advisor at the Malaria Consortium, said that this digital platform does illness screening for different patient groups, provides treatment recommendations and also data on stock of drugs. Moreover, the patient data is fed to district health officials to ensure effective communication.

“We have lot of children dying because of diarrhoea, cholera and malaria, which can be easily treated and prevented. In far off places, community health workers play an important role in delivering critical health care services. This platform is meant to enhance the ability of these health workers to deliver quality care,” Karin tells Down To Earth. This digital platform has been collaboratively developed by Malaria Consortium, the Government of Mozambique and UNICEF.  

Presenting a similar case of technological innovation making an impact on the healthcare sector in Africa, Matthias Boyen, HIV/AIDS support project officer at UNICEF, explained how medical drones in Malawi are helping the country enhance its capacity to respond more effectively to floods and other disasters. The drones can fly over the least accessible areas to identify affected communities and the impact on the ground. 

Besides disaster response, the drones have been used In Malawi for transporting blood samples to laboratories for testing HIV. “The larger objective is to coordinate with the stakeholders of contingency planning system because there is a feeling that decisions made were not quite informed and evidence-based,” says Matthias.

The relevance of these experiments is felt when we know that half of the Africans can't access health care because of geographical inaccessibility, as pointed out by Amit Thakker, CEO of Kenya Healthcare Federation. In this context, any innovation that bridges this gap will lead to better health care delivery.

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