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AI projects to tackle racial inequality in UK healthcare, says Javid

racial inequality

AI projects to tackle racial inequality in UK healthcare, says Javid

Artificial intelligence is to be used to tackle racial inequalities in the NHS under government plans to “level up” healthcare.

It is hoped that millions of black, Asian and minority ethnic Britons will benefit from revolutionary computer techniques designed to transform care and speed up diagnoses of potentially deadly conditions.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has given the green light to a series of hi-tech initiatives aimed at tackling health disparities in the UK. It comes amid mounting concern over the issue among senior ministers.

New projects include drawing up fresh standards for health data inclusivity amid fears that the datasets at the moment fail to adequately represent people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Another project will use computer algorithms to investigate factors behind adverse maternity incidents involving BAME mothers. The results could lead to recommended changes, which could include new training for midwives and nurses. Black women are five times more likely to die in the UK due to complications during pregnancy compared with white women.

Javid said he was committed to “removing barriers” in the NHS so that “every one of us, no matter our background, can live healthier, longer lives”.

Experts have warned for years that some people from BAME communities have poorer health than the overall population. More recently, the pandemic took a disproportionate toll on these groups.

Evidence also suggests that structural racism can lead to BAME patients suffering poorer health outcomes. Reports have found “deep differences” in the prevalence and outcome of some health conditions between and within ethnic groups in the UK.

Javid said: “As the first health and social care secretary from an ethnic minority background, I care deeply about tackling the disparities which exist within the healthcare system. As we recover from the pandemic we have an opportunity for change, to level up, and ensure our NHS is meeting the needs of everyone.

“Technology, particularly AI, can be an incredible force for good. It can save valuable clinician time and help provide faster, more accurate diagnosis, so patients can access the care they need as quickly as possible. It can also help us better understand racial differences so we can train our workforce to look for different symptoms or complicating factors, diagnose faster, and tailor treatments.”

Javid expressed personal dismay at the racial inequalities in healthcare. “It is unacceptable that black women in England are five times more likely to die from complications during childbirth than their white counterparts. AI could help us to better understand why this is the case and ensure black mothers have an equal chance for a healthy life with their newborn.”

The drive to tackle racial inequalities using AI will be led by NHSX. Its AI Ethics Initiative aims to support research and practical interventions using AI-driven technologies in health and care, with a focus on countering health inequalities.

Another project being funded involves an AI-powered chatbot to raise the uptake of screening for STIs/HIV among minority ethnic communities.

A fourth involves improved computer screening to detect diabetic retinopathy. Recent analysis suggests performance varies significantly between different ethnic groups because people from ethnic minority groups have higher levels of retinal pigmentation which can influence image quality.

Javid said one of the most important new AI initiatives would be updating UK health data to more accurately reflect the population.

“If we only train our AI using mostly data from white patients it cannot help our population as a whole. We need to make sure the data we collect is representative of our nation. This new funding will support the development of a much-needed set of standards to make sure datasets for training and testing AI systems are diverse and inclusive so no one is disadvantaged because of their race,” he said.

Josh Keith, a senior fellow at the Health Foundation, a thinktank involved in the initiatives, said: “Data-driven technology is having a profound impact on our health and health care system, but we need to focus on making sure the impacts are positive so that everyone’s health and care benefits.

“We hope the projects being supported through this partnership can make an important contribution to this – helping to ensure the advancement of AI-driven technologies improves health outcomes for minority ethnic populations in the UK.”

Brhmie Balaram, head of AI research and ethics at NHSX, said: “Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise care for patients, and we are committed to ensuring that this potential is realised for all patients by accounting for the health needs of diverse communities.”

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Health

AIDS Agency Chief Says 1 Out Of 100 Persons Positive In Kaduna

The Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Aids Control Agency (KADSACA), Dr Isa Baka has said a survey had revealed that one out of 100 people is positive to the AIDS disease in the state.

Baka disclosed this speaking shortly after a walk in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, on Thursday in Kaduna.

The theme of the year’s’ World AIDS Day is “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services’’.

He said the present statistics was a remarkable development against previous survey which gave 11 of every 100 people in the state.

Baka added that the AIDS prevalence in Kaduna, which is at 1.1, being a survey carried out by the state government itself, was later done at the national level, where that of Kaduna was confirmed as very accurate.

“At the national level, the prevalence of the virus (AIDS) was at 1.4 (four people out of 100 test positive), while that of Kaduna is confirmed to be 1.1, was in determination of the state government and KADSACA’s efforts to ensure minimal prevalence of the virus,” he said.

He said as part of efforts to continue reducing the prevalence of AIDS in the state, government initiated programmes across the 23 LGAs.

He said one of the UNICEF anchored programmes, which is the ‘Adolescent and Youths Living With HIV and AIDS’ programme, was present and effective in at least, 18 LGAs and 24 sites in the state.

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Health

Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Health

Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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