Earlier this year, we reported on an exciting South African tech startup - Signapps - that landed a multi-million Rand contract in the UK. Now, it seems another African tech startup is joining those ranks. Kenyan-based healthtech company Ilara Health, made headlines recently for securing a major funding grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The company aims to use the money to improve access to antenatal care (ANC) services in Kenya's peri-urban areas. So it seems African healthtech companies are on the rise and making it big. Here's what you need to know about this exciting news...
Ilara Health secures millions in funding from the US
What is Ilara Health?
According to their website, Ilara Health partners with companies to reduce the cost of healthcare diagnostics. They use robotics and AI to create cost-effective devices and streamline the testing system. They then integrate these tech-powered devices into the Ilara Health tech platform. This bundle, comprised of the innovative test devices and custom software is sold to doctors with certain financing solutions. It's more affordable for the doctors and patients as the tech-powered diagnostic equipment is a fraction of the price of traditionally-used equipment.
Ilara Health can also deliver test results faster - after just 10 minutes in the office - and provide doctors with the tests they need most. They've developed specialised software that links diagnostic devices with an electronic medical record system that records all patient data. Patients can receive customized health tips and reminders based on their individual conditions. This is undoubtedly an innovative and unique development in the healthtech space.
How will the grant help?
The grant was secured to help the company improve the diagnostic services in a certain health sector - that of soon-to-be mothers. One of the missions at Ilara Health is to advance Kenya’s maternal health outcomes and promote access to antenatal diagnostics countrywide. Ilara Health CEO and co-founder, Emilian Popa, believes the grant will make a huge difference and give the company an opportunity to complete their important work.
Popa said, "This grant underscores the acute need for the continuation of essential ANC services during the COVID-19 pandemic; we hope to see a great reduction in poor maternal and neonatal health outcomes through its implementation in these low-resource peri-urban areas." The funding is set to be used to create improved ANC interventions and create tech-based solutions so that pregnant women can access essential health services and blood tests, even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The importance of antenatal care
Ilara Health claims that Africa has some of the world's worst maternal and newborn health outcomes. But their technology aims to remedy that. And, with their $1.1 million grant, they're hoping to combat this as soon as possible.
According to reports, only 3% of women in Kenya attend the recommended eight antenatal care appointments. And, because these appointments are meant to help pregnant women avoid maternal deaths and stillbirths, the country has seen a devastating increase in these unfortunate outcomes.
In 2017, Ilara Health recorded 342 reported maternal deaths per 100 000 women. In the peri-urban county of Kisumu, there were the highest number of maternal deaths in 2019 - 595 deaths per 100 000 recorded births. While these numbers seem shocking, the good news is that innovative companies like Ilara Health - together with various national health departments - are working to improve these healthcare solutions.
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Ilara Health explained that, with the help of the new funding, their goal is to reach pregnant women at their local clinics or homes to provide safe, COVID-free care to expectant mothers and newborn babies. The team hopes to reach over 4 000 pregnant women, providing quality services and, at the same time, striving to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in densely populated areas by seeing patients individually rather than having them gather at large healthcare facilities.
We love the company's innovative use of technology in the healthcare space. And we wish them the best of luck!