Cardiopad: Reaching the hearts of rural communities in Africa

Author:Edward Harris
Position:Communications Division, WIPO
By Edward Harri s,
Communications Division,
In a remote clinic in Mbankomo, down a crimso n-earthed road in Cameroon, a doctor
attaches electrode s to the chest of a patient lying on an examining table. Murmur ing
reassurances, the gene ralist records the patient’s heart data on an Africa n-designed
touch screen medical tab let. The readings are then transfe rred wirelessly, over the
mobile-phone network to specialists in distant urban centers for interpretation, diag-
nosis and prescribed tre atment.
By making it possible to pe rform tests, such as an ele ctrocardiogram (ECG) in far-
ung villages, the tablet is br inging high quality c ardiac care to remote and often
poorly equipped countryside clinics where many Cameroonians go for their health
care. It connects rural patie nts suffering from he art disease, many of whom do n ot
have the means, the time, the contacts or the streng th to travel to the big city, with
Cameroon’s few, primarily urban-based cardiologists.
The potentially life-saving Cardi opad – designed in Camero on to address a Cam-
eroonian problem, but whi ch is also widespread acros s Africa – is the brainchild of
26-year-old engineer Arthur Z ang. For now, the heart reading and interpret ation are
just a simulation – but that will ch ange soon if Mr. Zang gets his way.
The winner of numerous overs eas awards and grants, Mr. Zang hopes that his invention
– imagine an iPad with home-bui ld software built for deployment in the Afri can bush –
will revolutionize cardiac care in Ca meroon. And for him, his business is also persona l.
“There are a lot of people in my fam ily who suffer from c ardiac illness,” he says refer-
ring to the recent heart-related de ath of his uncle. “So personally, this has af fected
me but above all I would say it has impa ssioned me, because I kn ow personally the
daily existence of people li ving in the village … I lived mysel f in a village and I know
how difcult it is to get spec ialist care.”
According to Mr. Zang, Cameroon has only a few dozen cardio logists in a country
of around 22 million people an d these are clustered in urban centers like the capital,
Yaounde, or the main seaport town of Douala. R oughly half of Cameroon’s population
lives in rural areas, accordi ng to the World Bank, while many others live in urban areas
that do not have access to heart s pecialists.
The young engineer saw a p roblem and set out to try to x it. In 2009, while s till a
student, Mr. Zang began developing a sof tware product that could he lp doctors
monitor the health of their patients’ hearts. He made contact with a Yaounde-based
cardiologist, Professor Samu el Kingué, who helped hi m better understand the t ype
of technical solutions required. With these insights, the young engineer nally wrote a
program that he loaded onto an off-the-she lf device. But he soon realized he needed
the exibility of his own plat form, and so turned to developing his own hardware – the
Cardiopad – the rst medica l tablet in Africa, says Mr. Zang.
Reaching the hearts of rural
communities in Africa

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