"Making a difference to the health and lives of thousands of people across continents"
Dr Sumbul Hashmi works as the Global Public Health Manager at EPCON. She is involved in projects spanning multiple countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Central African Republic, Philippines, Pakistan and Belgium, among others. Her day-to-day work involves collaborating closely with EPCON’s Data Science team to plan and design health system disease risk predictive models, and how best to represent the outputs of such AI models on various digital platforms. To implement community-based health programs, like active case finding interventions for infectious diseases like TB, Sumbul works closely with a range of health professionals, including program managers, national disease control leads, and organisations such as nonprofits and social welfare organisations.
Sumbul’s work has its challenges. Since many of EPCON’s projects involve mapping the risk of disease in a highly granular fashion, the AI models require accurate data. But in a number of regions where EPCON works, resources are limited, and this reduces the availability of data and the capacity to capture up-to-date and precise data.
Health-related data in many developing countries is still collected via paper-based systems before being compiled into digital databases. Data collected in this way poses challenges for AI-based modelling and curtails its use. Yet digital data collection methods are hampered by a variety of issues in low-resource areas, such as internet availability, access to digital tools and digital literacy among health care workers.
Thus, AI based predictive models and machine learning, though in high demand worldwide and constantly improving, are not yet easily available in many of the low and middle income countries. The regions that need them the most are frequently unable to implement and use them optimally.
Nevertheless, Sumbul enjoys overcoming these challenges. With her special skill set, including epidemiology, biostatistics, research methodology, health program planning and scientific writing, she is well placed to do so. Problem solving excites her, and she focuses on using science to explain and find solutions to real world public health problems. Sumbul acknowledges that there are times when it’s unclear how to achieve a certain outcome, but the EPCON team relishes such opportunities to brainstorm and draw on their joint expertise to find a solution. EPCON’s approach to modelling infectious diseases is unique, and it can be a game-changer for a country or region.