Health Innovations Conference convenes expats on digital technology

Today, healthcare organizations are facing unprecedented challenges to improve quality and access to health care service packages. As such, innovations in health have become a major focus once again with the goal to reduce health care disparities.

In order to address the above need, The Ugandan Academy for Health Innovations and Impact in March 2019, hosted a successful second edition of the Annual Health Innovations Conference at Serena Kampala hotel. The event was attended by 270 participants, an upsurge from last year’s 175 participants.

The two-day event was attended by implementing partners from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Clarke Group, Case Hospital, Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Andela Uganda, Innovation Village and Janssen, the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson among others.

This year’s theme “Sustainable Health for all: Harnessing the fourth Industrial revolution” featured presentations and demonstrations aimed at bringing health innovations to the last mile and ensuring that scale up is achieved for start-up innovations.

During the opening ceremony which was led by the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Makerere University, Prof Umar Kakumba appreciated the Ugandan Academy and the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) for working towards research and addressing healthcare service delivery needs in Uganda.

“I continue to thank the Infectious Diseases Institute, The Ugandan Academy, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and all the other partners who have been very generous with their support and in turn boosted the image of Makerere University,” he said.

The lineup of reputable speakers included Kwame Rugunda (the chief executive officer of Crypto Savannah and head of the Block chain Association of Uganda), a technology entrepreneur, Prof Elly Katabira (founder of the first HIV clinic and The Ugandan Academy Board co-chair) and Brian Gitta, founder of Matibabu a non-invasive device that detects malaria in less than two minutes.

Also present was Solomon King, the founder of Fundi Bots, who called upon developers to always remember the end user when innovating – “The danger of being a techie, is your infatuation with your product, but you should always remember the end user has to be at the center of your thinking.”

Unique to this year’s conference was a 17-hour Hack-a-thon spearheaded by Andela Uganda – #AndelaIDIHealthHack. Culminating out of the hack-a-thon were three fan favorite groups which displayed applications to address, breast cancer and sexual reproductive health. Among the three, the overall champion of the health hack was team Cephor who designed a Breast Cancer Glove kit which can be used for breast cancer screening.

As a climax to the conference, David Blair the Chief Technology Officer of Andela handed over awards to the three winning teams with team Cephor receiving six months’ worth of technical support from the Innovation Village, to improve their idea and gauge feasibility. Other winners in the abstract presentations, both oral and poster, included Alpha Doctors, whose innovation revolves around tele-medicine, Mbabara University’s Neonatal resuscitator designed to reduce deaths in newborns due to failed breathing as well as William Wasswa also of Mbarara who presented on a pap smear automated analysis tool for diagnosis and classification of Cervical cancer from pap-smear Images. The awards included a Hisense television, cash prizes ranging from UGX500,000 to UGX2,000,000.

The conference also featured a live painter Rolands Tibirusya who visualized the proceedings through painting on a canvas. Lastly, for those that missed the HIV history exhibition which was displayed at the Uganda museum in partnership with The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) and Uganda AIDS Commission in December 2018 and January 2019, were able to view an abridged version of it at the conference.

The closing ceremony was presided over by, Prof. Elly Katabira, the Board Co-Chair of the Ugandan Academy who urged young innovators to take heart and continue to incessantly pursue their goals. “I might be skeptical to endorse your idea because am scared it may fail and people say that’s the professor who endorsed the failed project so I might discourage you, but I encourage you to politely tell me that am wrong and work hard to see that its completed.”

Written by Angela Luyiga and Tracy Ahumuza, Communications Officer, The Ugandan Academy for Health Innovation and Impact