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Reducing Health Disparities in Africa

Global Telehealth Network, IEEE Smart Village and Rotarians are collaborating to improve access to healthcare in medically underserved areas and to improve education and economic development in rural communities.


Our initial efforts are focused on pilot programs in East Africa designed to improve maternal and child health services and control communicable diseases such as HIV and malaria. We will also assist in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of non-communicable diseases and other acute and chronic conditions.


Our long-term objectives are to reduce health disparities and advance progress toward most of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to end poverty in the world through collaboration with other organizations.


THE PROBLEM


Most countries in Africa have inadequate numbers of health workers to meet the needs of their populations. This is especially true in rural areas, where nearly all available care is provided by nurses who have minimal or no support from physicians. Outside of major cities, most physicians in hospitals are in primary care, with little access to consultations by medical or surgical specialists.


Shortages are especially severe in maternal and child health, non-communicable diseases and mental health services. Many rural areas also lack reliable electricity and Internet access.


Meanwhile, 40% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in extreme poverty, but their conditions can be greatly improved with access to quality healthcare services and resources for education and economic development.



THE PLAN


The Global Telehealth Network (GTN) is a nonprofit organization of volunteer physicians and psychologists who can provide free, real time, online video consultations for health workers in medically underserved areas when they encounter patients who are impacted by complex medical, surgical or mental health problems.


GTN also offers free use of its technology to develop regional telehealth networks that not only enable doctors to obtain in-country specialty consults, but also allow them to supervise nurses in remote areas who currently have no physician backup. Meanwhile, GTN’s international panel of professional volunteers can fill any gaps in expertise with 24/7 availability.


IEEE Smart Village (ISV) provides seed funding and training for local entrepreneurs whose for-profit social enterprises develop solar power installations to provide clean, sustainable electricity.


Now ISV will also support entrepreneurs who establish broadband Internet access for hospitals, clinics, schools and villages. Electric power and Internet connectivity will allow access not only to telehealth services, but also to valuable resources for education and economic development.


At each site, we are working with community and government leaders, entrepreneurs and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to assess the community's needs, then customize and implement solutions to meet those needs.


Our nine pilot programs in Kenya and Uganda involve three hospitals, four rural community clinics and two school health clinics. Each site is unique, and following detailed outcomes analyses, these programs will inform development of multiple models that can be adapted to meet the needs of many additional hospitals, clinics and schools around the world.


These initial efforts will benefit several hundred thousand people, and they will address several of the United Nations SDGs. As the program scales across Sub-Saharan Africa and other continents in collaboration with other organizations, it will impact the lives of tens of millions and advance 13 of the 17 SDGs.


Reliable electric power will also improve safety at hospitals and clinics where power failures sometimes require use of flashlights to complete surgeries and deliveries.


Installations at schools will provide access to telehealth and to a vast array of online educational resources that eliminate dependence on outdated textbooks. Schools can also utilize Internet resources for adult education and vocational training.


The Global Telehealth Network and IEEE Smart Village are collaborating with Child Health & AIDS Prevention (CHAP), the Rotary Club of Los Altos, California, the Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley Smart Village, eight other Rotary Clubs and several other organizations to implement these pilot programs.


We’re also developing the funding required to scale these efforts through our next round of programs in Kenya and Uganda, as well as in Tanzania, Liberia, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Galápagos Islands and the U.S. (beginning with urban free clinics and rural Tribal Lands), as well as in refugee settlements, disaster areas and conflict zones, including Ukraine and Syria.

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