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January 28, 2024
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Artificial Intelligence: Empowering Expectant Mothers in Zambia

– Dawa Health, a medical start-up in Zambia, is using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve care for pregnant women.
– The DawaMom project leverages AI tools, mobile clinics, and digital platforms to enhance maternal and child health.
– The AI-powered health platform aims to democratize access to maternal healthcare and reduce maternal mortality in low and middle-income countries.
– The project focuses on identifying high-risk pregnancies and developing models to aid in clinical decision-making.
– The Zambian government’s digital health strategy and high mobile and internet penetration make the country an ideal location for testing this technology.

A team of entrepreneurs, researchers, and health professionals in Zambia are using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve healthcare for pregnant women. Dawa Health, a medical start-up based in Lusaka, is working on the DawaMom project, which harnesses AI tools, mobile clinics, and digital platforms to enhance maternal and child health.

The project utilizes generative AI models that respond to patient queries by retrieving and constructing health advice from local documents. These patient-facing models help address vernacular inquiries on the platform. Additionally, doctor-facing models analyze ultrasound scan images to identify high-risk pregnancies, such as placenta previa, multiple pregnancies, and baby uterus positions.

The aim of the AI-powered health platform is to democratize access to maternal healthcare and achieve universal health coverage in lower and middle-income countries like Zambia. Over 60 community health workers are currently supporting in-community healthcare through DawaMom, and more than 800 mothers have signed up on the mobile platform.

The project also focuses on developing research and datasets on postpartum hemorrhage and obstructed labor, using multiple maternal and fetal variables. This research will help first-level clinicians identify high-risk pregnancies in time for referrals. The ultimate goal is to reduce maternal and child death and injury during pregnancy, childbirth, and early childhood.

Zambia is an ideal location for testing this technology due to the government’s digital health strategy and existing e-health platforms. The country also has relatively high mobile and internet penetration. However, the project still faces challenges such as AI hallucination, biased training datasets, and over-reliance on technology.

The project has been recognized by MIT Solve in their Caring Economy category. The team behind DawaMom seeks to generate empirical evidence around their work in maternal and child health. They believe it is crucial for researchers and scientists from the Global South to lead research and solutions to address global challenges in their communities. This understanding and cultural knowledge can help overcome barriers and ensure the mass adoption of solutions developed through research work.

In addition to the DawaMom project, other healthcare start-ups are using AI technology to improve community healthcare. One example is Speetar, a telehealth start-up in Libya that provides mental health services. By offering data packages and an AI bot trained on disaster-specific data, Speetar aims to provide trauma counseling, grief support, and stress management to those affected by natural disasters.

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