Following the increasing rate of unwanted pregnancy and the need to curtail Nigeria’s growing population, government, international organisations, development agencies and businesses are leveraging smart technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital health technologies to address inequalities and help accelerate progress in Universal Health Coverage (UHC), especially in regard to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of young Nigerians.
According to the world health organisation (WHO), decades of neglect and underinvestment have had serious effects on the health and wellbeing of young people and adolescents aged 10 – 24 years throughout the world. However, the way digitization is governed and made accessible will either exacerbate these challenges or help resolve them.
There is also a growing concern that the present generation of young people may be the first to demand and to gain a clear set of rights in relation to rapid technological development. “There is high potential to improve health through digitally-enabled health systems and behavioural interventions, but there are also deep concerns about ownership, privacy, human rights and increasing commercialization,” said Njide Ndili, PharmAccess country head and commissioner, Lancet FT Commission on AI and digital health.
Ndili stated this at the one-day Youth consultation on Digital Health and Technology, organised in Lagos by Lancet and Financial Times (FT) Commission in collaboration with some international agencies and the Lagos State government, tagged ‘Growing up in a digital world’.
According to Ndili, the Lancet and FT Commission governing health futures 2030 was established to run between October 2019 to December 2021 exploring the convergence of digital health, AI and other frontier technologies with universal health coverage (UHC), with a special focus on improving the health of children and young people.
Hence, the commission will explore how to ensure that digital development helps improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people. It will also focus on examining integrative policies for digital health, AI and UHC. “Deliver a clear set of recommendations on the governance of digital health, AI, UHC, taking full account of geopolitical, economic and social factors,” said Ndili.
Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State commissioner for health, said the health delivery ecosystem in Lagos is due for overhaul; hence the ministry is championing the state’s eHealth strategy on Smart Health Information Platform (SHIP).
“The Lagos e-health platform intends to create massive opportunities particularly for brilliant tech startups and giants who offer applications and other plugins that will add value to healthcare delivery in Lagos State,” said Abayomi stating that while it is essential for Lagos to lay the foundations for excellent care delivery now, the youth will be responsible to make it run.
According to Abayomi, SHIP offers opportunity to engage digital entrepreneurs to help in delivering primary healthcare to Nigerians, primarily UHC, which will be delivered predominantly at the primary healthcare level. “…in the process, thousands of people will be engaged on new jobs, while current roles and skillsets will be sharpened to comply with current global standards,” he stated.
Abayomi opined that there is an urgent need to digitize the healthcare delivery system with the use of applications suited for Nigerian unique environmental realities, because foreign apps do not take certain cultural contests into consideration, and also “we want to create employment for our youth.”
SEYI JOHN SALAU