In the Central African country of Cameroon, home to 24 million people, there are only some 50 cardiologists—and 12% of all deaths are caused by heart disease.
Growing up in a small village near Cameroon’s capital city Yaounde dreaming of being a doctor, Arthur Zang, now 30, didn’t know any of that. But today his invention, the Cardio-Pad, is transforming the way heart conditions are diagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa, where heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults over 30, and beyond.
Zang’s idea came after he was rejected from medical school and decided to study computer science instead. As an intern, he met one of those 50 cardiologists who told him rural patients often had to make expensive and dangerous journeys just to get diagnosed correctly. Zang set about designing the Cardio-Pad, a handheld tablet that physicians in remote locations could use to send scans to cardiologists in the city.
It eliminates the need for repeated arduous journeys, spreading hope of treatment to areas where a heart problem could often be a prolonged death sentence—or at least a major economic burden. During development, Zang’s uncle died from a heart attack. “That pushed me to finish the device,” he says.
The Cardio-Pad launched in 2016, and is now deployed throughout Cameroon, four other African countries and Nepal. It’s cheap for a hospital-quality medical device, at $3,000, but it didn’t take long for Zang to realize that lots of smaller hospitals couldn’t afford the price. So he started a program in 2017 where CardioPads are distributed for free, with patients paying a low annual fee for access to diagnosis in their own home.
He sees it as a small step forward for the inequitable healthcare systems in Cameroon and beyond. “Poor people face many difficult problems in hospital,” he says. “I wanted to help them get better care, wherever they live.”