Babylon Partners Limited

Making healthcare accessible across Africa by scaling digital health Highly Ranked

Lead Organization

Babylon Partners Limited

London, England, United Kingdom

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Africa has 25% of the global disease burden. But only 3% of the world’s health workers and less than 1% of the world’s health expenditure, so millions don’t have access to basic healthcare. Digital health represents a unique opportunity to leapfrog healthcare’s traditional barriers to access, and accelerate universal health coverage (UHC) under SDG 3.Babylon Health is a leading global provider of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled digital health to millions worldwide, including 2 million in Rwanda. Forging a partnership with Amref, Smart Africa, the World Bank, and local governments, Babylon will establish sustainable, digital primary healthcare for 50 million people in 5 diverse countries, and create the framework for catalysing continent-wide digital health adoption.Improving access to healthcare is vital to alleviating poverty and driving socio-economic development. Digital health will enable governments across Africa to optimise their limited resources, and put accessible, affordable healthcare into the hands of everyone.

Problem Statement

In Africa, there exists a significant gap in access to affordable healthcare. The continent has the most severe shortage of healthcare workers in the world, with 1.3 healthcare workers per 1,000 people, well below the 4.5 required to reach UHC and the SDG targets. With the majority of governments in Africa spending less than 3% of GDP on health, versus the global target of 5%, the gap in service provision is continuing to grow and there will be a shortage of 6.1 million healthcare workers by 2030. The lack of access to affordable healthcare disproportionately impacts the poor - high out of pocket healthcare expenses have pushed over 23 million Africans into extreme poverty. With disease burdens shifting towards non-communicable diseases, the absence of an effective primary care system means that diagnosis of patients is delayed, conditions become more costly and complex to treat, further straining the current system. Digital health’s promise to alleviate the access and inequity gap has yet to be realised. Numerous interventions have proven beneficial but have not scaled or adapted to local needs. Limitations in public sector capacity to leverage, incubate and implement new technology has meant that interventions have remained siloed, not reaching their full potential. There is a need for greater institutional support, to align and embed digital health interventions at a community, national and supra-national level to realise the benefits of digital health and address the gross inequity that exists in the access to affordable healthcare.

Solution Overview

Primary healthcare is widely recognised as the most cost-effective strategy for delivering essential health interventions and promoting UHC. By 2025, this project commits to make digital primary healthcare available to 50 million people in 5 target countries across Africa, catalysing the adoption of digital health across the region to achieve UHC. This is the first time a team of this scale has been brought together to deliver digital health solutions in Africa and foster the necessary change at an individual and community level, as well as at a national and regional level.The core of the solution is to provide anyone with access to a mobile phone (basic or smart) with virtual health services that will be integrated into local health services – including remote triage, consultations and diagnosis, e-prescriptions, laboratory tests and specialist referrals. Harnessing the significant advancements in AI, non-medically trained workers will be upskilled to use an AI tool to provide health advice and triage recommendations, enabling critical task-shifting, alleviating the burden on stretched health systems.This will improve patient outcomes and productivity as they can access care easier and earlier. On a system level, this not only advances the economic development of a country (fewer sick days, chronic disease reduction etc.) but also creates a more cost-efficient health system as health workers time is used more effectively and fewer new health facilities need to be established. This enables governments to utilise limited funds more efficiently and take significant steps towards achieving UHC.

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Project Funders

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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