Healthcare professionals in Cameroon are set to reinforce their fight against non-communicable diseases in the West African country with artificial intelligence, after Songhai Labs signed a partnership agreement with Project Datareach. The partnership will see the AI project being launched in HSPC polyclinic located in Kumba, Southwest Cameroon.
Project Datareach was launched by Vikash Singh in 2015 and with a focus on medical research, artificial intelligence and machine learning, making for a natural ally to African medical research. His software application will allow health care professionals to report and visualise patterns regarding non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma and hypertension. This data collection will then be analysed to identify disease patterns in communities anticipate and mitigate outbreaks of epidemics and allow for preventative education for people who may be at risk.
According to Singh, who has, till date, funded his project through grants received from the UCLA Global Citizens Fellowship, the “partnership represents the first clinician-integrated, machine learning pipeline in the history of Cameroon, and even one of the first, as I understand, on the African continent.” Although it is his first project on the continent, Singh has ambitions of partnering with Cameroon’s ministry of Health to implement similar software applications to also track communicable diseases like monkey pox, malaria, typhoid and yellow fever.
Singh graduated from UCLA with a major in computational and systems biology and has for a long time considered the potential impact of machine learning on health care in developing countries. This line of thought is also shared by specialists at the Songhai Labs where they have been running trials for the system for over a year. Frankline Nsai, a healthcare specialist at Songhai Labs has expressed that, “much attention is being paid to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, and there is a tendency to forget about non-infectious illnesses, which are increasing in frequency worldwide. The arrival of this application is timely, and is helping doctors identify the risk of someone developing a non-communicable disease in the nearest future and then taking precautions to avoid or reduce the risk.”
Cameroon is familiar with artificial intelligence owing to its use in Boassama hospital in Douala – one of seven in Africa – to use AI technology in improving diagnosis and treatment. The ability to identify patterns becomes an extremely important feature in the mitigation of major epidemic outbreaks especially in a region that has suffered tremendously in recent times.