Future of Healthcare in Africa

Article By Samantha Trolli IN News - 6th July, 2022

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      Clinicians in Africa have been continuously tackling their healthcare system and bettering the health of their people. The main goals for these clinicians is to promote and utilize technology in medicine, increase healthcare delivery, and improve the education system for all researchers and medical students. 

      With these goals in mind, much success has been seen in the healthcare systems across the African continent. Looking back at these successes, we are able to see the future of medicine in Africa. The first area that we are seeing development in is precision medicine. This approach of medicine is also known as personalized medicine, a patient centric approach which is driven by research in genomics. With advancements in this area, treatments will soon be personalized to the patient based on their genes, leading to no more guessing games on which treatment will work. Currently, Africa is just beginning to put its foot in the door when it comes to genomic research; so far, around 5,000 to 10,000 genomes have been sequenced. This number is expected to increase rapidly with programs like the African Genome Variation Project. Run by the Wellcome Sanger Institute, this project aims to improve the understanding of genome variations within the African population – specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, – enabling precision medicine to take charge in the healthcare system. 

      To successfully conduct such renovation, a proper education system must be in place to teach the future scientists of the world. This need is not going unrecognized with new goals set in place by the medical schools located across Africa. Currently, there is a high level of urgency in the work to expand and improve the medical education in sub-Saharan Africa. This urgency can also be seen elsewhere in Africa, as many countries are beginning to prioritize medical education as a part of the overall health education. In addition to this, many medical schools have begun to develop partnerships with organizations and universities in other countries. This tactic improves the healthcare system by helping Africa become a part of research on a global scale. Lastly, curricular innovations are occurring in many medical schools. These innovations involve a higher emphasis on critical thinking skills and community-based education. This addresses regional needs by teaching students the skills needed to work in any setting, as well as helping the community they are located in. 

      Technology nowadays is crucial for the development of any sector of society. We are especially seeing the need for advanced technology in medicine. In May of 2019, the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) announced that it would be using drones to transport specimens of blood. This allows doctors to now reach patients globally. The SANBS is specifically focusing on the high mortality rate among women during childbirth.
      Another way Africa is aiming to increase healthcare delivery is by Smart Lockers. These lockers are a system that dispenses medicine to patients with chronic illnesses, helping avoid travel to hospitals for treatments. An example of this is the company Pelebox, developed by Neo Hutiri. When a patient's medicine is ready, they will receive a text message with a unique code that allows them to open the locker and retrieve their prescription. 

      The innovation doesn’t stop there, telehealth is becoming increasingly more popular across the African continent. Certain apps are being developed that enable remote access to doctors, allowing for medical advice and diagnosis without having to make a trip to an office. It is estimated that ⅓ of people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to a smartphone in 2018. In 2014 the number of people with a smartphone doubled, and it is estimated that this number will double again by 2025. Increasing access to technology increases access to care, more people will be able to reach their primary healthcare providers in their hands. 

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