Leveraging IT to Improve Population Health in Africa

"The impact of the program has been profound," explains Julie Murugi, M.D., M.P.H., a student in UC Davis Continuing and Professional Educations's Health Informatics program and a regional maternal and child health adviser from Nairobi, Kenya. Already a medical doctor, Murugi combined her growing interest in public health informatics with knowledge she gained in the program to found Altus Health Associates, a public health enterprise that leverages innovation in information technology for optimal health outcome. 

Fueled by prevailing gaps for health care and IT in health care in Africa, Altus Health Associates was founded on the belief that Africa can leverage emerging innovations in IT to improve population health while creating relevant lessons for the rest of the global health village. "I see Altus Health Associates becoming a global resource for health IT—for the developing world and beyond," says Murugi. The goal for Altus Health is to be able to link with and synergize with health IT companies around the world for innovation and delivery of health care solutions. "It's a global village, and IT makes boundaries obsolete."

Explicit in Altus Health's mission is the belief that every individual deserves the highest quality of life possible and that health care is fundamental to attaining this right. With a predominantly young African population that is highly receptive to emerging technologies, Altus Health has taken to social media for health promotion, including a breast cancer awareness campaign in October and lifestyle and wellness for November. "Because I now have the health IT language and know how, I can relate with online discussions and news and share these," explains Murugi. "I have also developed links with IT communities in the region."

Impressed by the breadth and quality of the Continuing and Professional Education program, Murugi was equally attracted to its interactive and flexible online format, allowing her to remain in Kenya and tend to competing priorities. Citing comprehensive course content along with available and supportive instructors, Murugi has since been able to attend and fully engage and participate in regional and international IT meetings. "I immensely appreciate the knowledge I have acquired to date. Every bit of it has been pertinent."

"I am now more aware than ever that we are in a global village," explains Murugi, who has been deliberate in seeking out young "Kenyan IT geniuses" with whom she is busy creating health apps. Murugi is looking ahead to also completing a Ph.D. in health informatics. "My vision is to contribute to the improvement of the health status of vulnerable populations through research, programming, knowledge and skills transfer."