Post Date
Aug 11 2023

The SBA School of Science and Engineering at LUMS, in partnership with the University of New South Wales and Shalamar Hospital, Receives Grand Challenges Grant For Catalyzing Equitable Artificial Intelligence (AI) Use

Zubia Ahmad

Dr Maryam Mustafa (Principal Investigator) and Dr Hassan Mohy Ud Din (Project Co-PI), Assistant Professors at SBASSE, are part of a collaborative project that has been awarded a Grand Challenges grant – an initiative fostering innovation to solve pressing global health and development problems and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Drs Maryam and Hassan, alongside Dr Beena Ahmad (Co-PI), Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and Dr Fozia Umber Qureshi (Co-PI), Head of the Gynecology Department at Shalamar Hospital, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project focused on Catalyzing Equitable Artificial Intelligence (AI) Use, titled “Awaaz-e-Sehat: Empowering Maternal Healthcare with Voice-Enabled Electronic Record Management”.

When harnessed equitably and responsibly, AI has incredible potential to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges and reduce global inequity. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports AI research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to help ensure that AI technology is tailored to local health, education, agriculture and other contexts and designed with the needs of the world’s most vulnerable at the centre.

The project led by Drs Maryam, Hassan, Beena and Fozia aims to address the significant maternal health challenges faced in Pakistan, where poor pregnancy outcomes and high maternal mortality rates persist. The main issues include a lack of awareness about maternal health signs, delayed emergency care, and inadequate medical records. To improve this situation, the project proposes the development of "Awaaz-e-Sehat," a voice-enabled, mobile phone-based AI assistant for maternal healthcare workers (MHCWs) in Pakistan. This innovative solution harnesses advancements in speech recognition (ASR) and large language models (LLM).

Awaaz-e-Sehat will create comprehensive electronic medical records (EMRs) by leveraging voice input in local languages, particularly Urdu. This AI tool intends to assist maternal healthcare workers (MHCWs) by quickly generating detailed case histories, offering patient risk stratification based on health and socio-economic factors, explaining colloquial terms related to maternal health, providing educational resources, and facilitating the collection of vital health data. The system will involve an intuitive user interface, speech recognition, and text generation modules.

Leveraging expertise in (ASR) from the University of New South Wales, the project will be developed at LUMS using a participatory design approach in collaboration with maternal healthcare workers at Shalamar Hospital. As one of Punjab's largest non-profit hospitals, serving a diverse range of patients, Shalamar Hospital is an ideal testing ground for piloting Awaaz-e-Sehat. This diversity ensures a comprehensive dataset, accelerating the AI tool’s training and enabling future scalability to benefit marginalised communities. The project aims to establish an effective electronic medical record-keeping framework, facilitating equitable healthcare access nationwide.

Awaaz-e-Sehat is one of nearly 50 Grand Challenges Catalyzing Equitable Artificial Intelligence (AI) Use grants announced by the Gates Foundation to support LMICs in harnessing AI’s power for good and to solve the urgent need for LMIC participation in the co-creation process of this technology as it rapidly evolves. The project’s findings will contribute to building an evidence base for testing AI large language models (LLMs) that can fill wide gaps in access and equitable use of these tools.  Each of these grants represents an opportunity to solve or mitigate a real challenge experienced by communities, researchers and/or governments in low- and middle-income countries.

To receive funding, Dr Maryam Mustafa’s team and other Grand Challenges winners submitted their concepts which outlined their bold idea in response to the Catalyzing Equitable Artificial Intelligence (AI) Use request for proposals. More than 1,300 proposals were submitted from around the world.

About Grand Challenges
Grand Challenges stem from the idea from over a century ago that crowdsourcing a defined set of unsolved problems can spark innovation and accelerate progress. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its Grand Challenges funding partners use Challenges – launched in 2003 as open requests for grant proposals – to focus attention and effort on solving pressing global health and development problems for those most in need. Together they have awarded over 3600 grants engaging a diverse pool of problem solvers in over 100 countries and fostering a global innovation ecosystem where it will have the most impact. The foundation and its Grand Challenges partners will continue to launch RFPs to support innovators from around the world in tackling the hardest, most urgent, Grand Challenges. To learn more, visit this link.