The Access Afya and SGHI team during the Health Access Initiative project kick off.
Access Afya, in collaboration with Savannah Global Health Institute (SGHI) and its sister company Savannah Informatics, announced that it is a winner of a Grand Challenges grant – an initiative fostering innovation to solve pressing global health and development problems and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Access Afya and SGHI will pursue an innovative global health and development research project focused on Catalyzing Equitable Artificial Intelligence (AI) Use, titled “Health Access Initiative”.
When harnessed equitably and responsibly, AI has incredible potential to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges and reduce global inequity. Supporting AI research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) will help ensure that AI technology is tailored to local health, education, agriculture and other contexts and designed with the needs of the world’s most vulnerable at its center.
Access Afya and the SGHI team at a workshop held for clinicians.
Access Afya and SGHI are uniting to address a critical healthcare challenge, ensuring equitable access. This partnership brings together the expertise of two indigenous Kenyan companies committed to serving underserved populations. Both Access Afya and SGHI share a core mission to make quality healthcare affordable and within reach for everyone. By leveraging Access Afya's deep expertise in the mass market and SGHI’s extensive countrywide presence, serving 2.6 million individuals through its sister organization Savannah Informatics' SladeID and Slade360 EDI, Kenya's largest Health exchange, they are poised to substantially impact the healthcare landscape.
One of the most exciting aspects of this partnership is the exploration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in healthcare. It also gives local communities the ability to share their perspective and cultural context, allowing them to choose their threshold for safe usage and the overall utility of AI in their own lives.
Additionally, this will promote fair access to AI for LMICs. Global use of AI should be responsible, safe, transparent, reliable and beneficial, with strong accountability.
This initiative seeks to create awareness about common medical conditions and empower patients to make decisions about their healthcare, leading to early diagnosis and treatment. Early intervention is crucial, as it can help prevent complications, reduce healthcare costs, and ultimately improve the quality of life for individuals.
Furthermore, clinicians will derive significant benefits from this collaboration for instance, they will have access to decision-support tools that adhere to standardized care protocols. As a result, patient care will be enhanced and clinical outcomes will be improved. Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and professional health bodies backed guidelines will promote evidence-based practices, ensuring that healthcare providers deliver the highest quality of evidence based care to their patients.
This partnership fosters a healthcare ecosystem where patients receive timely, accurate treatment and clinicians have the resources needed to provide optimal care while adhering to established guidelines.
This partnership creates an opportunity for research in global health. Backed by the University Of Nairobi (U.O.N) Centre for Healthcare and Innovation, this collaboration will undertake a rigorous evidence based approach to evaluating AI applications in healthcare locally through the Institutional Review Board (IRB). These findings are aimed at showcasing a first of its kind knowledge base for the vast stakeholders involved in Artificial Intelligence development including regulators, policy makers, developers, users and other stakeholders locally.
“Safe and responsible AI use starts with incorporating the voices of the people that use it, giving people a say in what and how they want to experience AI-guided interventions while ensuring transparency, fairness and accountability. Through our collaboration with SIL, we are excited to research and improve access to care for underserved populations in Kenya.”
Daphne Ngunjiri, CEO, Access Afya.
“We are delighted to partner with Access Afya to revolutionize healthcare delivery in Kenya through the use of artificial intelligence. Through this initiative, the quality of life in our local communities will improve immensely by standardizing the process of protocol-driven care while empowering patients to take better charge of their healthcare through access to medical information. This will also ensure that clinicians provide better services, which leads to better clinical outcomes.”
John Muthee, CEO, Savannah Informatics.
Access Afya’s project is one of nearly 50 Grand Challenges Catalyzing Equitable Artificial Intelligence (AI) Use grants announced by the Gates Foundation to support LMICs in harnessing AI’s power for good and to solve the urgent need for LMIC participation in the co-creation process of this technology as it rapidly evolves. The project’s findings will contribute to building an evidence base for testing AI large language models (LLMs) that can fill wide gaps in access and equitable use of these tools. Each of these grants represents an opportunity to solve or mitigate a real challenge experienced by communities, researchers, and/or governments in low- and middle-income countries.
To receive funding, Access Afya and other Grand Challenges winners submitted their concepts which outlined their bold ideas in response to the Catalyzing Equitable Artificial Intelligence (AI) Use request for proposals. More than 1,300 proposals were submitted from around the world.
About Grand Challenges
Grand Challenges stem from the idea from over a century ago that crowdsourcing a defined set of unsolved problems can spark innovation and accelerate progress. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its Grand Challenges funding partners use Challenges – launched in 2003 as open requests for grant proposals – to focus attention and effort on solving pressing global health and development problems for those most in need. Together, they have awarded over 3600 grants engaging a diverse pool of problem solvers in over 100 countries and fostering a global innovation ecosystem where it will have the most impact. The foundation and its Grand Challenges partners will continue to launch RFPs to support innovators from around the world in tackling the hardest, most urgent, Grand Challenges. To learn more, visit grandchallenges.org.
About Access Afya
Access Afya is a healthcare enterprise that delivers high-quality and localized healthcare, designed specifically to serve the needs of low-income markets around the world. They achieve this through affordable tech enabled primary healthcare clinics and integrated virtual care. Access Afya ensures that patient-centred outcomes and digitally-driven primary healthcare are accessible to the most underserved populations. Access Afya runs a chain of outpatient clinics under its franchise brand Curafa. Their clinics are located in Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado. To learn more, visit accessafya.com.
About Savannah Informatics
Savannah Informatics Limited (Savannah) is a clinician-led health informatics company delivering innovative and interoperable healthcare solutions to improve access to affordable, quality healthcare. Savannah is privately owned and has an established footprint and operating base in Kenya, working with over 3,500 Medical Service providers, private, public and Faith Based Organisations. Savannah is a founding member of the Kenya Health Informatics Association (KeHIA) and has representation on the Kenya Bureau of Standards Technical Committee for Health Informatics Standards. In addition, Savannah has regular representation on MOH’s Standards and Guidelines and eHealth technical working groups (TWG). At an international level, Savannah supports the Open HIE movement through the implementation of various product registries. Savannah hosts Kenya’s largest health information exchange platform, has developed mHealth tools that engages providers and beneficiaries, developed and supports laboratory interconnectivity and quality assurance, conducts medical training in collaboration with other partners. Savannah designed and implemented the second version of the web-based Kenya Master Health Facility List and currently supports the MOH in realizing the Digital Superhighway project. To learn more about Savannah Informatics, visit savannahinformatics.com.
Stay tuned for upcoming articles on the groundbreaking work of Access Afya, SGHI, and Savannah Informatics as they pave the way for equitable AI-driven healthcare solutions in Kenya and beyond. These articles will shed light on the use of AI in a safe, fair and ethical manner, gender inclusivity and improved affordability and access in the healthcare landscape.