Advancing Health using Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play an important role in healthcare to predict treatment outcomes. The application of AI models to clinical data will help health professionals perform better at their jobs and improve patient health outcomes.

The UtiliZing health Information for Meaningful impact in East Africa through Data Science (UZIMA-DS) project under Aga Khan University’s Institute for Human Development (IHD) hosted a four-day annual stakeholder meeting to develop a roadmap to strengthen and leverage data science in improving healthcare.

“The core aspect of this project is prediction models. We intend to develop and validate AI/ML-based prediction models for poor pregnancy, neonatal and child outcomes,” said Prof Amina Abubakar, co-principal investigator of the UZIMA-DS project and Director, IHD. ​

Fitbit is an example of an AI-based wearable health tracker that monitors a user’s health and alerts them when anything unusual is detected. UZIMA-DS is using Fitbit in its pilot project in Nairobi to collect data that will be analysed later and used as a predictor outcome.

“As you know, some of our projects include Fitbit data. This data is something we need to better understand and leverage to improve our health. This is important in the African settin​g because we have leap-frogged technology in so many ways,” said Dr Akbar Waljee, co-principal investigator of the project and Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan.​

UZIMA-DS is a research hub funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the first of its kind in the region. It aims to use advanced artificial intelligence to serve as an early warning system for at-risk populations in maternal, newborn and child health and mental health.

In the creation of the prediction models, predictive analytics will be used. Predictive analytics uses historical data to forecast potential scenarios that can help drive strategic decisions.

Speaking about the importance of predictive analytics, Dr Zul Merali, Founding Director of AKU’s Brain and Mind Institute, said, “We need to be able to jump ahead and predict where things are going to be so that we can intervene early and change the trajectory.”

The meeting also provided a platform to discuss trends and emerging issues in data science, discuss challenges and strategies to streamline workflows, build collaborations, strengthen networking, and review annual action plans for UZIMA-DS.

The hub brings together experts and partners with key stakeholders to improve the quality, efficiency, and relevance of data science in health research for sustainable impact in Africa. This will ensure current and future generations of Africans can achieve uzima, a Swahili word meaning health/wellbeing.​