Cameroonian Scientists Developing App To Investigate Re-emerging, Emerging Diseases

Jun 25, 2024

Prof. Dickson  Shey Nsagha, Principal Investigator of the Digicare-Cameroon Project

By Bouddih Adams

A team of Cameroonian health Scientists has developed an app that will enhance healthcare delivery in Cameroon, with a special focus on the control of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (ERID). 

The consortium is headed by Principal Investigator Prof. Dickson Shey Nsagha, Professor of Epidemiology and Vice Dean in-charge of Programmes and Academic Affairs at the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Buea; Dr. Moïse Ondua of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science of the University of Ngaoundere; Dr. Denise Kweteyim, Head of Department of Computer Science in the University of Buea are other investigators working on the project. 

The Digicare-Cameroon Project is also working on the prevention, preparedness and response to the epidemics and pandemics of these emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. The project will also determine the prevalence of these diseases, forecast or predict epidemics or pandemics and pre-emptive measures.

Internet and Communication Technologies, ICT, is at the forefront, and newly developed Artificial Intelligence, AI, will be employed to enhance healthcare in Cameroon. 

Talking to The POST, Prof. Nsagha asserted: “Re-emerging diseases are diseases that have been thought to be under control, but they are now coming back. They include: malaria, tuberculosis, measles, polio, cholera, yellow fever. For new emerging diseases, COVID 19 is a very good example.”

Prof. Nsagha explained: “We are developing an app that will not only target the re-emerging diseases but also emerging diseases as well. There are three components to our work: there is the health of humans, the health of animals and the health of the environment.”

We will develop an AI powered chatbot. With the chatbot we will engage patients in interactive conversations. One of the researchers said: “The reason AI is so acclaimed today is the fact that you can engage in an artificial intelligence conversation. So, behind the scene there is some language processing which is done with the question and answer bank that we have, so that it doesn’t matter how the patient frames the question, the system is intelligent enough to give the right answer to the patient. The system is very secure and all the care is taken to ensure that only people who need to have access to certain data, have access to that data. 

“This means that just with telephone and internet, Cameroonians will be able to consult from their homes by accessing an app which Prof. Nsagha says will be available free, stating that they are working in collaboration with the Government of Cameroon.”

What has been achieved so far? Prof. Nsagha explains: “Baseline situational analysis data has been completed on the community perspectives on the adoption of artificial intelligence and digital one health for the control of ERID, community preparedness in the utilisation of artificial intelligence and digital one health for home healthcare delivery for these diseases, and healthcare provider perception of the use of AI in health care service delivery in the Buea, Limbe, Bonassama and New Bell Health Districts. We are conducting feasibility studies on our mobile application.”

The Digicare-Cameroon Consortium project is funded by International Development Research Centre of Canada and the York University also based in Canada. The consortium is part of AI4PEP (an association of countries of the Global South using Artificial Intelligence Applications to Support Epidemic and Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response. Members of AI4PEP in Sub-Saharan Africa include Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal and South Africa.