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Nearly $1 million from the United Nations Development Programme

The University of Sherbrooke innovates to transform community health in Mali

Sherbrooke, le 19 octobre 2021 – Smart glasses for remote consultations with specialists and connected tablets to collect health and social data—all supported by renewable energies—are the components of an innovative project to improve health care in Mali. Through the SanDi digital health project, the Centre interdisciplinaire de développement international en santé (CIDIS) of the Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS) wants to promote universal access to health care in this country.

Thanks to funding of $974,996 from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this one-year interdisciplinary project aims to deploy digital health tools supported by solar energy at approximately 20 first-line health-care facilities in Mali. To reinforce and maintain the health system and infrastructure, the project will also provide support to health facilities and government institutions in Mali, including the national agency for telehealth and medical informatics (ANTIM) at the country’s ministry of health and social development.

Many research and evaluation projects will be carried out to study how these new technologies are implemented and appropriated. In addition to improving the health of a vulnerable population with quality primary care, SanDi promotes environmentally friendly energy sources through the installation of solar panels.

“It is increasingly difficult to separate health from environmental issues. Health can no longer be assessed through a strictly one-dimensional lens. This is why SanDi is truly an innovative, bold and inclusive project that will connect environmental solutions to health problems all while addressing social issues,” said Gabriel Blouin-Genest, professor with the School of Applied Politics at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of UdeS, scientific co-director of the CIDIS, and director of the project.

Striving for concrete improvements

This project specifically targets Malians who live in remote and hard-to-reach areas. “People can use smart glasses for remote consultations with specialists at university hospitals. Decision support tools for health professionals and connected tablets that provide social and health data will be essential to helping us improve primary health care,” said Ousmane Ly, a research professional and digital health expert with the CIDIS as well as a physician in Mali.

The SanDi project will be implemented by the Interdisciplinary Centre for International Health Development in collaboration with multiple partners at UdeS. These partners include the Faculty of Arts and Humanities (FAH), the Faculty of Law, the LN2 Laboratory, the Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT), and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. Leading experts from UdeS who will be involved include Mélanie Bourassa Forcier, Arthur Oulai and Charles-Etienne Daniel from the Faculty of Law, Céline Verchère and Maxime Darnon from the LN2 Laboratory, and project director Gabriel Blouin-Genest from the School of Applied Politics (ÉPA).

New projects grow from DÉCLIC

The SanDi project has roots in previous initiatives as part of a series of international development assistance projects to improve access to health care. The CIDIS is currently involved with a project to improve access to health care for women and teen girls in Mali through local education communities (CLEFS). This project builds on the previous clinical and community education development project called DÉCLIC, which focused on knowledge transfer by transforming five community health facilities into academic health centres for community-based research and clinical training. The current project aligns with the CLEFS project and underscores the desire of the CIDIS to build on existing partnerships.

A connection to UdeS's socially relevant themes

While the project is intended to be innovative for the people of Mali, it also represents an opportunity for UdeS to strengthen some of the socially relevant themes of its 2018-2022 strategic plan. In line with an intersectoral research approach, the SanDi project is linked to the themes of community living, sustainable development, health promotion, the digital age, and even the use of innovative materials with solar panels. This promising project therefore has high added value for UdeS.

“This marriage of digital technologies with an interest in sustainable development, and of course health, makes this a truly interdisciplinary project that the FAH is proud to be a part of. This project is completely aligned with the mission of UdeS and our faculty, as it allows us to support three core aspects: teaching, research and community service,” said Professor Anick Lessard, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

This new project is also in line with many of the major principles guiding UdeS, including its mission of social responsibility. “This project that harnesses our research, training and services to improve the delivery of health care in Mali gets us actively involved in building more equitable communities. Everyone benefits from this project, from our students to the Malian population itself,” concluded Professor Dominique Dorion, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the UdeS.

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Isabelle Huard, Media-Relations Officer
Communications Department | Université de Sherbrooke
819-821-8000, extension 63395 |