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Dr Sekalala wins ISRF Grant to support African Health App Project

Dr Sharifah Sekalala, Associate Professor at Warwick Law School, has been awarded a £5k ISRF grant to support her project: ‘There is no app for that, regulating health apps in Sub Saharan Africa.’

In 2018 an article in the Economist declared that data was becoming more valuable than oil. Migration usually refers to people, but the migration of data is becoming equally important with terms such as data colonisation becoming mainstream. Many health apps facilitate the migration of data. Whereas other kinds of transnational health data collection and transfer tend to be highly regulated (e.g., clinical trials) the migration of data generated by health apps is inadequately regulated.

This project analyses the gaps in this regulation and their impact. The project will map health apps in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa to examine the problem, organise networking events in order to agree on a consensus on the kinds of apps most likely to benefit from further study, and discuss how equitable frameworks might inform the development of improved regulation in this area, within a larger project that will include different stakeholders.

Sharifah told us, “The Wellcome Trust also awarded me 50,000 Euros as the PI and the ISRF grant is to further support this work in building a consortium of different stakeholders who are interested in regulation in this area.”

Sharifah has also been awarded £4,509 towards her other project 1-800-DOCTORS: Indian telemedicine, African patients and clinical care after Covid-19’. This is a small scoping study with Sarah Hodges from Warwick’s History department and Julia Hornberger in South Africa. It aims to analyse the increasing use of telemedicine from India in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and how this is reinforcing an emerging field of India-Africa relations.

This research explores the long term effects of Covid-19, not on individual markets but rather on the very practice of medical care, world-over. Much attention has already been paid to the epidemiological, economic and political effects of our on-going COVID-19 crisis: mass death and illness, border closures across the world and a restructuring of everyday life. Here, public health, biomedical and life sciences and economists have been at the forefront.

“In our project we will use the tools of the critical medical humanities, to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated as well as restructured practices and everyday patterns of accessing healthcare, through studying the contemporary history (Hodges), regulatory challenges (Sekalala) and cultural heft (Hornberger) of Indian tele-medicine and e-health practices as it has grown up over the continent over the course of the twentieth century.”

Africa, whether as a continent or as individual nations, typically figures in public speech and policy as an exemplar of crisis and underdevelopment. This is particularly marked when it comes to health. “The starting point of our project is that this stereotype hides profound truths. Rather than an emblem of “backwardness” [sic], we argue that for telemedicine and e-health, Africa is where the future of clinical care has already begun. “


Find out more about Sharifah and her research:

Fri 22 Jan 2021, 16:03 | Tags: Award, Research, Staff in action, Funding