Aga Khan University, U-M data science collaboration garners NIH funding
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Facilitated by the U-M Center for Global Health Equity, $6.5 million NIH grant will establish a cutting-edge data science hub in east Africa.
The Aga Khan University (AKU) will lead the effort with U-M support. UtiliZing health Information for Meaningful impact in East Africa though Data Science (or UZIMA-DS) will be the first-of its kind initiative in the region, harnessing artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other emerging technologies to improve health and care delivery in local communities.
Professor of Internal Medicine Akbar Waljee, who was instrumental in forging a partnership with AKU earlier this year, will serve as co-PI for the grant with Professor Amina Abubakar, Director of the Institute for Human Development at AKU.
"I am honored to be working with Professor Abubakar and her colleagues at AKU who share my passion for leveraging AI and machine learning to impact health equity and improve people's lives," said Waljee, MD, MSc.
Drs. Amina Abubakar (left) and Akbar Waljee
Waljee and Abubakar received initial seed funding for their partnership from the Center for Global Health Equity, where Waljee co-leads a Data Science Challenge Group. Their collaboration builds on foundational work of several multi-disciplinary groups in Ann Arbor focused on leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) in low-resource settings: Michigan Integrated Center for Health Analytics and Medical Prediction (MiCHAMP); e-Health & Artificial Intelligence (e-HAIL), facilitated by U-M Medical School Office of Research and the College of Engineering; as well as the Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research in Ann Arbor.
The UZIMA-DS project will initially seek to leverage data science to proactively avoid adverse outcomes in maternal and newborn health and mental health. Through machine learning, an application of Artificial Intelligence (AI), they seek to identify creative solutions to aid health service providers and policy makers within resource constrained environments.
“Early identification and intervention are critical to a good prognosis in all health conditions. However, in many low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) there is a dearth of tools that can be used for early identification of women, children, and young adults at risk of poor physical and mental health,” said Abubakar, PhD.
The Aga Khan University will implement the project through its Institute of Human Development (IHD) and its Medical College. Collaborating institutions include the University of Michigan, Kenya Medical Research Institute Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KEMRI/ WTRP), and the University of Ottawa.
"Being able to then translate these emerging technologies for use in East Africa will empower communities to put data to work for better health,” Waljee said. “Moreover, it will provide a potential blueprint for utilization in other settings around the world.”