Nigeria’s health care system has gone from being comparable to the rest of the world in the 70s and early 80s, to one of the world’s most underfunded sectors.
On the global healthcare index, Nigeria’s healthcare ranks as one of the five worst in the world. The health industry is in such dire straits that thousands of doctors have moved abroad in search of better working conditions.
But as the sector struggles to cater to the health needs of nearly 200 million people, an innovative technology scene has created a new wave of startups focused on combating challenges in Nigeria’s health sector.
In an interview with Abisola Oladapo the founder and CEO of Mumspring, she explains how her company is bridging the gap with their mobile app “Agnes.”
What is the state of health care in Nigeria and how is your company bridging the gap?
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In Nigeria, the rate of maternal and infants deaths due to preventable health problems is alarming. Nigeria currently has one of the highest rates of maternal and infant deaths in the world.
One of the critical factors affecting the high mortality rates is the low utilization of professional antenatal healthcare services due to minimal awareness, transportation costs, and misconceptions about the healthcare system.
Mumspring is bridging the gap with ‘Agnes.’ Agnes is a feature phone app that provides antenatal education and 24-hour access to pregnant women and mothers. This access to professional healthcare workers, education, and specialized telemedicine reduces the rates of infant and maternal deaths.
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One critical lesson the COVID-19 pandemic taught us is that Nigeria’s healthcare system is ill-equipped, understaffed, underpaid, and has failed its citizens numerous times. If you are not wealthy, the best you can hope for is not to fall sick because if there is one thing we all know as citizens, it is that our healthcare system has failed us several times over. We have lost loved ones to preventable deaths. These issues that plague our healthcare industry, in general, have spilt over into maternal healthcare. It is a highly unfair and unfortunate situation because women should not have to pay the price to ensure the continuity of life or the nation’s population.
Nigeria has an alarmingly high rate of maternal and infant mortality. At Mumspring, we are working diligently to ensure safe pregnancies and deliveries through our Agnes app. Our groundbreaking technology provides antenatal education and 24-hour access to professional healthcare workers trained to support pregnant women and mothers. The Agnes app provides education and specialized personalized telemedicine for pregnant women and mothers. Agnes focuses on women in low-income communities who do not have access to healthcare that ensures a safe delivery for both mother and child. In addition to this, Agnes provides essential continuous after-birth support.
Agnes is inclusive, reliable, and trustworthy. Building trust is critical because many uneducated women are wary of modern medicine and affordable healthcare resources.
What motivated you to start Mumspring?
In Africa, we lose over 1 million babies within their first 30 days of birth. According to research done by the WHO, 80% of these deaths are preventable. Some of the root causes of these preventable deaths include:
(1) little to no antenatal education, and
(2) A lack of continuous medical support.
Mumspring exists to tackle these root causes.
My second child’s birth was a pivotal life-altering moment for me because she was born unable to breathe. As I waited with bated breath while the doctors worked to revive her, I prayed to God to save her. Besides the mind-numbing fear that gripped me, I was riddled with guilt and wondered if this was somehow my fault. Thankfully, she took her first breath, and I felt relieved. The myriad of emotions I experienced in those hours is something I would never wish on anyone. I started Mumspring because I did not want anyone else to go through a similar experience. Like a close family friend who lost her baby in the same way, some women are not as lucky as I was.
If I had more information and support, my baby and I would not have undergone such a harrowing ordeal in the hospital. My research took me down a wormhole, which quickly became the start of the journey that led me to bring Mumspring to life.
What kind of services do you offer?
One of our core offerings is a telemedicine service called Agnes.
Through Agnes, we provide:
- 24-hour access to health professionals
- Immunization and Vaccination reminders
- Quality antenatal education in local languages
- A community for pregnant women and mothers, to facilitate continuous peer support.
What are the challenges you’ve faced since you started?
One of the biggest challenges earlier on was attracting the right talent. We were looking for people who are obsessed with growth and interested in joining a fast-paced environment. As we have gained more traction, this has become easier.
What solutions are you offering?
Mumspring provides access to quality perinatal education (antenatal, postnatal, and neonatal) and midwife triage to ensure safe pregnancies, deliveries, and essential after-birth care. Our technology enables us to provide critical health support to safeguard our society’s most vulnerable – mothers and infants. Our app is most relevant in these unprecedented times as it reduces the risk and exposure of pregnant women to the COVID-19 virus through our at-home in-person and remote maternal care and support.
What Agnes achieves so incredibly well by leveraging technology is to provide a safe, controlled environment for the beautiful human experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Beyond physical care, we understand that pregnancy and early motherhood are times of heightened emotions, a plethora of questions, and many worries. Our technology creates and provides a community of mothers who support and encourage each other through various motherhood stages. The community we have created is equal parts welcoming, freeing, tight-knit, forgiving, and fiercely protective, and what we love the most is mothers no longer have to go it alone.
Other health startups that are changing the healthcare system in Nigeria include;
LifeBank is a healthcare technology and logistics company based in Lagos, Nigeria that facilitates the transmission of blood from labs across the country to patients and doctors in hospitals. It was founded in 2016 by Temie Giwa-Tubosun.
Nigeria has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the world, accounting for 19 percent of all maternal deaths globally. Postpartum haemorrhage (the loss of too much blood following birth) is the leading cause of such deaths. The lack of infrastructure to get crucial blood supplies in Nigeria compounds this problem.
Temie decided to tackle this problem by creating and mapping an online blood repository in partnership with different blood banks across the country. Doctors can now request a blood type and immediately access a map that tracks the journey of the delivery.
Founded by Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, 54Gene focuses on genomic studies for diseases that affect Africans disproportionately. Almost 90% of genetic material used in pharmaceutical research is Caucasian, and less than 3% is African. This is despite research saying that Africans and people of African ancestry are more genetically diverse than all other world populations combined.
54gene seeks to solve this problem by advancing the knowledge of African genomics and promoting inclusion in precision medicine through innovative basic, translational, and clinical research.
Field Intelligence is helping governments and businesses make good on the promise of healthcare in the fastest-growing parts of the world by making the pharmaceutical supply chain radically simple, affordable, and easily accessible.
The startup uses technology to amplify human resources and drive innovation, and has built a multinational team working out of its offices in Abuja, Lagos, Berlin, London, and Nairobi. The field is managing commodities with a value of over US$1 billion dollars across both the public and private sector.
Fake drugs are a grave global problem and in many developing countries like Nigeria, it is life-threatening.
Founded in 2017 by Vivian Nwakah and Temitope Awosika, Medsaf developed a platform that aggregates trustworthy international and local drug manufacturers as well as hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies in Nigeria.
In doing this, the startup creates a connection between these two parties, ensuring that health facilities have access to quality medication at an affordable price.
The startup offers a product suite that digitizes data, formalizes monetization and enables telemedicine for health care systems in Nigeria, Liberia, and Ghana.
Founded by three Nigerian entrepreneurs – Adegoke Olubusi, Tito Ovia, and Dimeji Sofowora, Helium Health is currently used by 5,000 doctors, with data from 500,000 patients across West Africa. The startup is aimed at tackling three core problems that we see in the healthcare sector in Africa: inefficiency, fragmentation and a lack of data.
These health startups have proven to be very valuable to the health care sector in Nigeria but more needs to be done in the Nigerian health space for it to stand a chance with the rest of the world.