Today, Arogya World, a global health nonprofit, announced that it has been selected for the coveted 2021 Google AI for Social Good Program. Google experts reviewed over 150 projects from 17 countries from Asia-Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa – including India, Uganda, Nigeria, Japan and Australia— and chose 30 projects spanning agriculture, conservation and public health for support. See https://blog.google/technology/ai/30-new-ai-for-social-good-projects/ Arogya World will use the resources and expertise of Google and academic experts to find ways to make its Diabetes Prevention mHealth program, mDiabetes, more compelling and effective through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
“We are thrilled to have been selected for this prestigious award and are pleased to be part of a select group of impact-making organizations. We are excited to work with experts like Dr. Thanh Nguyen to unleash the power of AI and put it to use to improve public health. We cant wait to see the good that will come out of this collaboration,” said Dr. Nalini Saligram, Founder & CEO, Arogya World.
“AI is a game-changer that can solve real-world societal problems at scale. We see a future that will have AI research seamlessly integrated into solutions for social good, and we believe this public health project is a significant step in that direction. I am excited to work with Arogya World on this important project,” said Dr. Thanh Nguyen, Assistant Professor, University of Oregon.
Incredible Public-Private Global Collaboration
Many teams in India and the US will work hard to execute this project.
- Arogya World (www.arogyaworld.org) has been working in public health in India for more than a decade with a focus on Noncommunicable disease (NCD) prevention. In this project, Arogya will be responsible for message content and transmission, study design and impact measurement and overall project management. Team members include Raghuram S, Meeta Walavalkar, Dr Sandhya Ramalingam and Mugdha Gangopadhyay. Dr. Susheela Venkataraman, board chair, Arogya World India Trust will provide input.
- Dr. Thanh Nguyen’s work in the field of AI is motivated by real-world societal problems, particularly in the areas of Public Safety and Security. She and her team at the University of Oregon (https://ix.cs.uoregon.edu/~thanhhng/) will design and build the AI system that will help in improving the effectiveness of Arogya World’s mDiabetes program. They will closely engage with Arogya teams each week during this project.
- Arogya will collaborate with Head Held High, https://head-held-high.org, a poverty alleviation nonprofit, for on-the-ground implementation of the study among 600-800 villagers in South India, by working with their frontline workers.
- Google will contribute important resources and expertise in the AI space to this project.
Significant Impact Expected
Arogya Worldanticipates that this project will have a significant impact on India’s public health. It has the potential to substantially improve the diabetes risk behavior of millions, and lead to a significant reduction in the number of people who have diabetes in India. The project, if it succeeds, could also be adapted to other countries, to improve the health behavior of people around the world.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic lung diseases, responsible for 70% of the deaths worldwide, are among the top health & development challenges of the century. Fortunately, these serious diseases are largely preventable – according to WHO, 80% of heart disease, 80% of diabetes and 40% of cancers are preventable with three lifestyle changes: eat healthy foods, increase physical activity and avoid tobacco. Prevention through healthy living is at the core of this project, now in COVID times, more urgent and important than before.
India is particularly hard hit by NCDs. 77 million people in India live with diabetes, an equal number are estimated to be pre-diabetic, and yet, 1 in 2 diabetics are unaware of their condition. 3 out of 4 adults are diabetic or pre-diabetic in metros, and Indians get type 2 diabetes at least 10-20 years earlier than people in the West.
Mobile phone uptake is high in India. According to Wikipedia, an estimated 1.5 billion cell phones are in use in the country. Since the phone is carried by the user throughout the day, mobile technology interventions offer a particularly impactful and cost-effective health promotion intervention channel. That is why Arogya World built mDiabetes, a text message program to empower people around prevention through healthy living, and showed promising effectiveness in a 1 million person outreach with Nokia (Pfammatter et al, JMIR, 18, no. 8 (2016): e207).
The Arogya mDiabetes program however uses a predetermined identical and static sequence of text messages for all end-users. In this project, Arogya Worldaims at improving mDiabetes by developing a dynamic and personalized messaging intervention mechanism that can adapt the messages based on the feedback of end-users. The feedback will seek to understand user engagement, motivation to change behavior, eating habits, levels of physical activity and general lifestyle. Arogya World’s goal is to optimize the impact of its message program on end-user’s lifestyle behavior.
In addition, in this project, Arogya Worldwill also strive to find the social influencer best suited to mobilize the community around such health programs, using AI strategies.
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