The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated the urgent need for health equity, a notably pronounced challenge in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
A Catalyst for Global Health Equity
As disparities in healthcare accessibility have become glaringly apparent, multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has made significant strides in this mission.
A considerable hurdle in healthcare access for LMICs lies in digital exclusion.
of the global populace - a staggering 2.9 billion individuals - remained offline in 2021. This digital void is compounded by an anticipated shortage of 10 million
health workers by 2030, primarily affecting LMICs.
Given these formidable challenges, technology investments have become indispensable, with digital transformation rapidly growing within the healthcare sector to bridge this gap.
AstraZeneca’s Country-Specific Healthcare Initiatives
AstraZeneca has established the A. Catalyst Network
to pursue global health equity. This dynamic and interconnected global platform comprises over 20 health innovation hubs, blending physical and virtual partnerships.
These partnerships aim to address pressing healthcare challenges, boost affordable access to healthcare, and enhance patient-enabled innovation.
AstraZeneca also proudly aligns with the World Economic Forum's EDISON Alliance, striving to catalyze digital inclusion by delivering affordable solutions.
A milestone in this endeavor is the 1 Billion Lives Challenge
, wherein AstraZeneca has pledged to screen five million patients for potential lung cancer by 2025. The initiative leverages a partnership with Qure.ai, a leading health-tech firm specializing in AI-based interpretation of radiology images.
This AI-powered approach, geared towards early lung cancer detection, is remarkably impactful given the preponderance of lung cancer worldwide
and that lung cancer services in LMICs are often inadequately financed by government health schemes.
Qure.ai's AI-enabled chest X-ray tool qXR --which identifies lung nodules in less than a minute-- is a crucial element of this effort. Introducing this tool into primary care settings, where X-rays are most frequently employed, dramatically minimizes the potential for undetected lung cancers.
The partnership has conducted approximately 85,000 scans across 21 countries, with a 0.9% identification rate for high malignancy-risk lung nodules.
Additionally, AstraZeneca has initiated collaborations to address nation-specific healthcare needs. In India, for instance, the company is working to enhance care for cardiovascular diseases, a leading cause of death
in the country.
In collaboration with Tricog, a provider of AI-based cardiovascular diagnosis tools, the India Health Innovation Hub launched Project Heart Beat in 2020. This project employs AI to interpret electrocardiograms (ECGs), facilitating early diagnosis of heart attacks in areas with limited healthcare resources.
These strategic partnerships with EDISON Alliance, Qure.ai, Tricog, and government branches worldwide underline AstraZeneca's devotion to fostering an inclusive, digitally-forward future.
This synergistic approach to healthcare innovation ensures that AstraZeneca's efforts to enhance global health equity continue to bear fruit, working towards a healthier world where quality healthcare access is a right, not a privilege.