Rolex Young Laureate 2014

Arthur
Zang

Reinventing cardiological

care in Cameroon

Arthur Zang Arthur Zang

Arthur Zang is listening to the heartbeat of Africa. His tablet-computer heart monitor, the Cardio Pad, promises to revolutionize cardiac medicine not only in his home country of Cameroon, but across Africa. All he needs to deliver cardiac care to the remotest parts of Cameroon is mobile phone network coverage.

Zang grew up in Mbankomo, a town 22 kilometres from Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé. It had no running water and the electricity supply was intermittent. “During that time I learned to make do with little,” he says.

Making it to university to study computer engineering in Yaoundé, he became fascinated by the potential of computers to change lives. From his disadvantaged beginnings, he drew the motivation to solve problems that would leave humanity better off.

Zang felt he could best serve his country by improving the health of its people. Conscious of the rising toll from heart disease caused by changing lifestyles and the difficulty of getting a reliable early diagnosis – especially in rural communities – he has designed a robust, portable, low-cost way to measure heart health, anywhere, any time. In 2014, his invention inspired U.S. business magazine Forbes to list Zang among the “30 most promising entrepreneurs in Africa”.

“I’m sensitive to the problems of other people. I’m an engineer and a researcher, but I want to use those skills for the benefit of others.”

Arthur Zang

How the cardio pad works

Expert diagnosis at a distance

  • The touchscreen Cardio Pad can be operated by a nurse or technician by attaching a series of wireless electrodes to the patient. This can be done anywhere and within minutes. The device produces a digitized electrocardiogram (ECG) – assessing the heart’s electrical conduction system, as well as measuring the rate and regularity of heartbeats, the size and position of the chambers, and the presence of any damage to the heart.

  • The data is transmitted via the mobile phone network to a cardiologist who downloads it onto another Cardio Pad, interprets the reading and sends a diagnosis and treatment instructions back to the nurse. The Cardio Pad solves a critical problem – the fact that many of Cameroon’s remote regions do not have reliable access to electricity to run sophisticated medical equipment. “The Cardio Pad has a battery that lasts for more than seven hours,” Zang explains.

Key facts

  • cardio pad
  • national data centre
  • cardiologist
  • 01

    Data is transmitted via the mobile phone network to the National Data Centre.

  • 02

    A cardiologist downloads the data on to a Cardio Pad and interprets the reading.

  • 03

    The cardiologist sends a diagnosis and treatment instructions back to the nurse.

Cameroon

in the heart of Africa

Based on a United Nations map

The country

Health in Cameroon

  • Area

    475,440 km²

  • Population

    22 million

  • Average annual income per capita

    US$2,270

  • Life expectancy, male/female

    55/57 years

  • Proportion of total annual deaths caused by cardiovascular disease

    14%

  • Estimated physicians for entire population

    2,400

Watch the short film

All that 2014 Rolex Young Laureate Arthur Zang needs to deliver cardiac care to remote parts of Cameroon is mobile phone network coverage. His invention, the Cardio Pad, is a tablet heart monitor.

Measuring heart health anywhere, any time

Cameroon has fewer than 50 heart specialists to care for its 22 million citizens, a fraction of the ratio in industrialized countries. Yet death from cardiovascular disease is on the rise worldwide, particularly in Africa where changes in diet, lifestyle and lifespan mean the prospects for people suffering with cardiac problems are frequently dismal.

Most victims don’t even know they have a major disease. Those who do know may live hundreds of miles from expert diagnosis and treatment by a cardiologist; in the case of Cameroon, all the heart specialists are located in the two main cities, Douala and Yaoundé. A great many patients die while waiting for an appointment.

“Finding a doctor is relatively easy, but getting an appropriate medical examination and testing is not,” Zang explains. “The problem is compounded by the fact that many hospitals don’t have the right equipment. If you live in a big town, you can get the right medical test. But if you live in a rural area, you may have to travel long distances on rough roads – and that is hard for many people.”

Zang’s Cardio Pad, believed to be Africa’s first medical tablet computer, will significantly improve the prospects for tens of thousands of Africans afflicted by heart disease. The device is light, quick, accurate, affordable and eminently practical for regions with poor health infrastructure. Being portable, it eliminates long and costly trips for the patient to a medical clinic in the nearest city. All it needs is a phone connection so that the data can be relayed to a cardiologist via a national data centre.

The device solves another critical problem – the fact that many of Cameroon’s remote regions do not have reliable access to electricity to run sophisticated medical equipment.

In late 2012, Zang was granted a patent for his invention.

A leading cardiologist in Cameroon, Professor Samuel Kingué, who mentored Arthur Zang, describes how the Cardio Pad will revolutionize cardiac medicine. Watch the video.

An idea inspired by a TV show

In 2009, as a computer science student, Arthur Zang was curious about computer applications in the medical field, so he spent time in hospitals to gain knowledge. “I was watching a television programme showing medical staff performing an ECG [electrocardiogram] on a heart patient. I thought to myself: ‘I wonder how that works?’” By chance, Zang met a cardiologist, Professor Samuel Kingué, at the main hospital in Yaoundé, who told him everything he needed to know about the ECG and the signal data processing that is required.

From idea to prototype

The Cameroon Government learned of Zang’s project from a video on Facebook, and granted him US$30,000 to develop a prototype. Zang used these funds to visit and commission an entrepreneur in China to manufacture 20 prototypes and he and his colleagues formed a company, Himore Medical. Two of Zang’s prototypes are now undergoing clinical trials in hospitals in Cameroon.

From prototype to product

With funding from Rolex, Zang will bring life-saving diagnosis to cardiac patients in the country’s remote regions. “My goal is to have 500 Cardio Pads in use across Cameroon to diagnose cardiovascular problems,” Zang says. The Cardio Pad will be sold as part of a complete diagnostic kit for about US$2,500 – less than half the price of other, far less portable diagnostic systems. Once his own country is adequately equipped, he intends to export the device internationally, especially around central Africa.

Arthur Zang

Rolex Young Laureate 2014

Often lacking a reliable electrical supply, Cameroon seems an unlikely candidate for the development of a world-leading health-care device. But those very disadvantages are what inspires and drives this 26 year-old computer engineer to spearhead change in his country. Zang is fascinated by the potential of computers and information technology to change lives.

Arthur Zang

Rolex Young Laureate 2014

People wait to see the only doctor at the hospital in Mbankomo, a village 22 kilometres from Yaoundé. To see a cardiologist, rural patients must travel to one of the major cities. Zang’s portable heart monitor, called a Cardio Pad, will change their lives.

Arthur Zang

Rolex Young Laureate 2014

Cameroon has fewer than 50 heart specialists to care for its 22 million citizens, a fraction of the number found in industrialized countries. Portable, low-cost and practical for areas with poor health services, Zang’s Cardio Pad will significantly improve health prospects for thousands of people.

Arthur Zang

Rolex Young Laureate 2014

The Cardio Pad can be operated by a nurse or technician who attaches electrodes to the patient. The device produces a digitized electrocardiogram (ECG), which assesses many aspects of heart health.

Anyone can change everything

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providing support for projects that tackle major challenges.

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Follow Arthur Zang as he uses his device to deliver cardiac care to remote areas of his country. Join other people, all over the world, who are helping Zang use telemedicine to revolutionize health care in Cameroon.