The computer scientist who created a tablet to detect heart disease
Cameroon is a country of more than 26 million people with barely 50 cardiologists. On an African continent where 22% of annual deaths are caused by heart problems, access to medical care is made even more difficult by the distances to hospitals. Most of these specialists in Cameroon are concentrated in its two large cities, Douala and Yaoundé, where patients have to travel to be examined. In many cases, they are unable to make these journeys or, by the time they do, it is too late.
Computer engineer Arthur Zang became aware of this problem when a cardiologist presented him with a challenge: to create a portable, reliable and easy-to-handle device to perform heart examinations in rural areas of the country, without the need for the patient or a specialist to travel hundreds of kilometres. “The first problem was that there was no specialist in this technology in Africa,” explains Zang. “I had to teach myself at home, using free educational software on the internet,” he continues. He and his team designed both the software and hardware for this revolutionary device.
The problem of shortage of specialists is general, so I think this device has the potential to be used all over the world.
The next hurdle he faced was financing. “I had to ask my mother to apply for a loan from the bank,” recalls the Cameroonian engineer. Once the barriers fell, Zang was able to create a prototype, which he called the Cardio Pad. About the size of a conventional digital tablet, and connected to electrodes, it allows non-cardiology healthcare workers to perform various tests, including electrocardiograms, and send them immediately via the internet for review by a cardiologist. With an autonomy of seven hours, it also allows tests to be carried out in places where there is no main power supply.
In 2016, the Cardio Pad finally went on sale and 200 units are now in use in 200 hospitals in Cameroon and the Comoros Islands. This project earned Zang a place among the laureates of the 2014 Rolex Awards for Enterprise, an award with which the Swiss company highlights and supports initiatives that improve the lives of people around the world. “The problem of shortage of specialists is general, so I think this device has the potential to be used all over the world,” says Zang, who aims to have his Cardio Pad used in more than 100 hospitals across Cameroon for the time being.
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