Africa faces an overarching lack of medical resources, including devices, facilities, and doctors. This lack of healthcare resources is contributing to many health challenges that African people face daily. The Economist writes about how technology comes to the rescue when resources are scarce. The primary health challenges the continent is facing include people who are suffering from:
- Maternal mortality
- Child death
Africa is among the lowest in the world in the patient to doctor ratio. According to the World Health Organization, Africa has 1 doctor to every 1,000 patients. In developed countries like America, there is about 1 doctor to every 300 people, a significant increase in access to medical care. You can imagine that the patient to specialist ratio in Africa is even lower. More specifically, there is less than one Neonatal specialist to every 1,000 new mothers. Mothers have to travel immense distances to access the nearest doctor and even further to access specialized HIV services.
“The African continent accounts for about two-thirds of all deaths relating to pregnancy and childbirth around the globe, even though it makes up only one-sixth of the world’s population.” In 1865 a device known as a Pinard was invented. It is a small silver horn that looks somewhat like a trumpet used to check the heartbeat of a baby in the womb. In 1950, the ultrasound was invented which is significantly better but due to the lack of resources, that horn is still being used in Africa today.
Technology can help compensate the lack of doctors and facilities in Africa. Portable battery powered ultrasound machines, robots delivering HIV medication and software that facilitates virtual consultations are among some of the many innovative technological advances that have been introduced in several underserved African countries. These technological advances are just the tip of the iceberg and show us that there is immense opportunity to improve access to healthcare in Africa.
Technology for Africa means access to doctors who otherwise would not be obtainable. With technology doctors in and out of the continent can distribute healthcare to patients who otherwise would not have the means to access.
If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out, Recreating Healthcare in South Africa