Writer: Daniel Kobrinski
As a growing leader and creator of high tech and innovative technologies, Israel has also been in the forefront of new innovations and companies in the Healthcare industry, and in particular the growing field of e-Health. “E-Health” broadly represents the intersection of healthcare with digital, mobile and communications technology. As the world’s population grows, the global economy becomes more inter-connected but also more polarized and unequal. Mobile and digital technology in the health field is becoming a critical tool to provide care to increasingly diverse and developing regions. There are numerous, exciting Israeli companies, start-ups, and medical research efforts that are making a positive impact in this field, and promise to make an even greater impact in the future.
South Africa, with its tumultuous and incredibly rich history and diversity, encapsulates all of the tremendous potential, and also serious challenges and problems, facing the African continent. Issues such as political governance, social and economic equality, development, corruption, are challenges currently testing the very fabric and future of South Africa, as well as the future of other African countries. Environmental and Health challenges have been and are increasing becoming a crucial element in this mix of issues facing Africa.
In the field of Health and Healthcare, citizens of South Africa, and its healthcare professionals, face a wide range of illnesses, diseases, and general health issues, just like every other country. For example, the top five causes of natural death for citizens of South Africa in the past year have been – Tuberculosis, Diabetes, Cerebrovascular Disease (conditions that affect blood circulation in the brain and commonly presented in strokes), Heart Disease, and HIV.
There are several examples of Israeli health-technology companies, emerging start-ups and breakthrough research efforts that can help make a positive impact on healthcare in a country like South Africa, as well as many countries facing similar challenges and dynamics.
Cervical Cancer Mobile Screening: MobileODT, an Israeli digital health company established in 2012, with the goal of creating smart digital technology for physicians and clinics to utilize when reaching people in areas that have less access and infrastructure for advanced health care treatments. For example, MobileODT has developed visual, mobile cervical, vulvar and colonoscopy screenings that can be done through mobile phones, allowing state of the art medical technology and clinicians to reach patients in real-time and in their local communities, for a fraction of the cost.
Prevention of Drug Overuse: Keheala is a Israeli startup mobile software ecosystem designed to address prescription drug noncompliance. By connecting patients to community support and motivation, Keheala offers patients and clinicians tools to overcome the social drivers of non-adherence. In addition, Keheala provides healthcare agencies with remote monitoring and analytics to combat epidemics in resource-constrained environments. In partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Keheala has improved the process of care and outcomes for tuberculosis patients in Kenya.
HIV and AIDS Prevention and Treatment: Israeli researchers from Hebrew University have developed a drug that is currently being tested at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot. During testing, the drug was inserted into test tubes containing the blood of ten AIDS patients at a hospital, and was found to decrease the HIV virus count in the blood samples by as much as 97 percent in just eight days. The active ingredient in the drug is a peptide, or smaller version of a protein, that was developed by Abraham Loyter and Assaf Friedler at Hebrew University. The peptide causes several copies of the virus’s DNA to enter the infected cell, instead of just one copy, causing the cell to self-destruct. In addition, tasked by the U.N., Israeli researchers have developed a device to provide a non-surgical method of medical male circumcision, designed specifically for resource limited settings, prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa. There is no injected anesthesia, surgery, sutures or a sterile setting required. This device reduces the spread of HIV/AIDS by 60% where implemented.
Reducing neurological disease and effect: Alpha Omega, a Nazareth-based startup that has developed groundbreaking medical and research equipment in the field of neuroscience. It was started by an Arab-Christian couple, Reem and Imad Younis, who met as students at the Technion University. The Younises started Alpha Omega in 1993, and they have offices in Israel, Germany and the US. Their pioneering products, including a GPS-like system for brain surgeons, are used in hospitals, universities, and research institutions across the globe. Alpha Omega took part in AIPAC’s annual conference in 2016 in the Innovation showcase. The company has also made a significant effort to support and advocate the importance of tapping into and giving opportunities to the Arab community in Israel, especially in the high tech sector.
Israel’s growth as a leader of innovative technologies and scientific breakthroughs in Health and Medicine, and in particular the emerging field of e-Health, present exciting opportunities. This opens the doors to help people and communities all over the world in these areas, especially a country like South Africa. Within Israel’s growth in the fields of science and innovation based companies, the growth and contribution of the Arab sector in Israel presents an intersection of issues that are important for the global community as a whole. Technology that is providing greater access and care for the world’s growing Health and Healthcare challenges, and the challenge of utilizing science, technology education and employment to even the playing field and encourage greater participation among diverse populations in today’s modern societies.