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HEALTH

Uncovered! Why Kids Have a Better Immune Response to COVID-19 Compared to Adults, New Study Says

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Data has shown that children, as a whole, have less severe cases of COVID-19 infections than adults. Now a new study may explain why: They have a better immune response to the virus.

The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, analyzed immune responses in 65 children and 60 adults with COVID-19 at a hospital system in New York City by looking at blood and cell samples. The researchers discovered that the children had a shorter length of stay, less of a need for mechanical ventilation and a lower mortality rate than adults.

Previous research has found that a dangerous immune response to COVID-19 has been linked to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can have severe outcomes in adults, including a great need for mechanical ventilation and a higher risk of death. It’s less common for children to have those severe consequences, which has caused some experts to theorize that their immune response to the virus is suppressed.

But the study found that children actually produce higher levels of two immune system molecules called cytokines, specifically interleukin 17A (IL-17A), which helps prompt an immune system response early in an infection, and interferon gamma (IFN-γ ), which tries to stop the virus from replicating. The researchers found that the younger the patient, the higher their levels of IL-17A and IFN-γ. “This suggests that IL-17A and IFN-γ or the cells that produce them contribute to immune protection, particularly against lung disease,” study co-author Dr. Betsy C. Herold, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. “Our findings suggest that boosting innate immune responses early in the disease may be beneficial.”

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QUINCY, MA – SEPTEMBER 17: A boy arrives for the first day of school at the Lincoln-Hancock Community School in Quincy, MA on September 17, 2020. Thursday was the first day of in-person learning for half of the students (Cohort B) enrolled in the schools hybrid model. The school also offers a fully remote learning program. (Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

A boy arrives for the first day of school at the Lincoln-Hancock Community School in Quincy, Mass., on Sept. 17. (Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
“Takeaway message: Kids do get infected and can get very sick but, in general, do better when infected with the virus,” Herold says. “This age-associated difference may reflect differences in immune responses.”

Looking at specific forms of cytokines is important here, Dr. Danelle Fisher, a pediatrician and vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., who did not participate in the study, tells Yahoo Life. Cytokines are a group of proteins in the immune system, she explains. “Every cell in the human body has cytokines in it,” she says. “If the cells release the cytokines, then they have effects on the immune system.”

Each cytokine has a slightly different impact on the immune system. “Some can be helpful, some can have dangerous effects,” Fisher says. “But the ones children are releasing more of seem to be more effective at fighting off SARS-CoV-2 than other cytokines that adults tend to release more.”

That appears to be what’s sparing children from severe illness from COVID-19, she says. According to one analysis of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalization data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about eight per 100,000 children were hospitalized with COVID-19, compared to 164.5 per 100,000 adults.

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“There has always been this mystery of why children have milder cases of COVID-19 and are less represented among the hospitalized,” Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who did not participate in the study, tells Yahoo Life. “The immune response in children seems to be different.”

While the study’s authors didn’t explore why the immune response is different in children versus adults, Adalja says it’s likely evolutionary. “Immune systems develop over time, and children’s immune systems face different threats than adults’,” he says. “They evolved this way.”

The study results are exciting, but Dr. Chris Carroll, a pediatric critical care physician at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, cautions against putting too much weight in them. “This study provides an important clue in investigating the differences in immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” he says. “But more work needs to be done to determine the specifics of why children have less severe infections.”

Carroll is also wary that the study only took a snapshot of the patients’ immune response. “The immune response to an infection may change over time, so future studies need to examine how that response changes with illness,” he says.

Overall, though, experts say this study may help with finding a treatment for COVID-19. “Learning about this is important because some of the treatments we’re thinking about for COVID-19 are immune modulators,” Adalja says. (Immune modulators are a type of immunotherapy that enhances the body’s immune response.) “It will be interesting to see if we can harness how children respond to the virus to make better treatments,” he says.

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HEALTH

Encouraging Employees to Reduce Carbon Footprint

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Business operations, from production to transportation, all contribute to a company’s environmental impact. Unfortunately, the workplace accounts for a considerable portion of greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon footprint of offices and sites is a major source of greenhouse gases.

As businesses reopen and people resume their daily commutes, now is an excellent opportunity to consider how your company can minimize its carbon footprint. This will not just have a positive impact on the environment but can also lower operational costs and benefit your business.

Fighting climate change through a more carbon-neutral office is attainable with the combined effort and action of your managers and employees. Minimize your carbon footprint at work and encourage your employees to do the same by following these simple measures.

Use energy-saving office equipment

The use of office equipment is a large and growing source of energy consumption. You can help reduce your carbon footprint and other greenhouse gases by utilizing energy-efficient office equipment, appliances, and light fixtures that emit fewer harmful gases into the environment.

Use laptops instead of desktop computers because they consume up to 80% less energy. Choose all-in-one printers, copiers, and scanners that use only half the energy that the individual machines would collectively.

Take advantage of your device’s energy-saving settings, which allow you to adjust the display options, screen brightness, and sleep mode timing to save even more energy and extend battery life. Unless they are required to be left on, always switch off computers and monitors at the end of the day.

Using energy-saving light bulbs is another option to minimize your office’s energy use. LED and fluorescent light bulbs consume less energy than incandescent light bulbs.

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Promote a paperless culture

The manufacturing of paper products emits greenhouse gases, which contribute to deforestation and global warming. Recycling can help mitigate some of the adverse effects on the environment, but only to a certain extent. The vast majority of paper eventually ends up in a landfill. By reducing your reliance on paper, your business may contribute to the environment’s health.

Moreover, ink, toners, and ink cartridges contain potentially dangerous compounds that, when incorrectly disposed of, pollute water and soil, contributing to the spread of ecological devastation. It also takes more than three quarts of oil, a nonrenewable energy source, to produce a laser printer and inkjet cartridges.

If you must print, make sure you do it on both sides. Doing so will slash your annual paper consumption by half, as well as the harmful gases produced in the process.

Encourage employees to use note-taking apps to take digital notes. Adopt electronic signatures—make it simple to collect digital signatures on contracts and legal documents instead of printing, signing, faxing, and storing them physically. Use electronic communications such as Google Docs, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Trello for collaboration, project management, and business notifications.

 

Encouraging Employees to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Participate in carbon offsetting

Join the organizations committing to net-zero by 2050 and identify strategies to minimize your company’s carbon emissions year after year. It’s challenging to reduce your carbon footprint to zero, but there are techniques to offset, or at least try to counteract, any greenhouse gases you do produce.

Various marketplaces provide a wide range of corporate offset options. Your organization can consider financing renewable energy programs and projects that help people in developing countries or tree-planting projects that benefit the environment.

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When considering different types of carbon offsets, keep in mind that not all marketplaces and offsets are created equal.

Eat mindfully and reduce office kitchen waste

Food waste and other waste generated in office kitchens contribute significantly to carbon emissions. Wastage also involves squandering all the energy and resources expended to grow, produce, package, and transport food. Furthermore, rotting food that’s been thrown out releases methane, another greenhouse gas.

Buy and prepare food conservatively and consciously. Encourage employees to bring a packed lunch to work every day, reduce food waste by eating leftovers from dinner, or buy food with fair trade labels that ensure the environment and workers’ rights are protected.

Consider setting up a composting bin, supplying reusable dishes and utensils, buying recycled and compostable napkins and other disposables, and replacing water bottles with a tap water filter.

Take public transportation or carpool

Private vehicles are one of the most significant sources of carbon emissions. If everyone in your workplace drives their own car to work, your company’s carbon footprint will increase. Reduce your organization’s carbon footprint by encouraging your employees to take public transportation or carpool with colleagues.

Taking public transportation instead of driving will not only save your employees thousands of dollars annually but also brings considerable environmental benefits. Switching to public transit for a 20-mile round trip commute can reduce your carbon footprint by 4,800 pounds each year.

You can also reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and traffic congestion by carpooling. Employees that carpool may also benefit from less stressful commutes, shared travel costs, and preferential parking at work.

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Some (final) thoughts

Sustainable business practices can yield substantial rewards for the environment and your organization. By following the steps outlined above, your business can minimize its carbon footprint, save money and resources, and attract environmentally conscious customers and employees.

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AFRICA

#GiveitaShot Challenge – A Campaign to Boost Covid-19 Vaccines in Africa

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Cape Town — As coronavirus cases surge in Africa, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) kicked off an eight-week campaign to help boost Covid-19 vaccinations across Africa.

UNICEF said the first-ever U-Report Challenge calls on all 13.3 million U-Reporters in Africa to help get vaccines to the unvaccinated.

According to UNICEF, the #GiveitaShot challenge aims to activate young people in motivating those eligible in their communities to get vaccinated. It is estimated that about 10 percent of the adult population on the continent are vaccinated.

UNICEF said the campaign will initially focus on six countries on the continent, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. It added that weekly messages will be sent on U-Report to encourage young people to learn about Covid-19 vaccines. They will be engaged in community actions (both online and offline).

Fake news on the Covid-19 pandemic has led to vaccine hesitancy worldwide. “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization said, referring to fake news that, he said, spreads faster and more easily than the Covid-19 virus.

However, concern about safety, side effects, and effectiveness contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Africa. According to the Africa CDC study, people with high levels of hesitancy were more likely to use social media and to be exposed to disinformation.

U-Report is a messaging tool that empowers young people around the world to engage with and speak out on issues that matter to them via  SMS, Facebook Messenger,  WhatsApp, and other communication channels. It is active in 88 countries worldwide, with 19.3 million U-Reporters all over the world. According to UNICEF, Covid-19 information and advocacy messages is packaged and disseminated to U-Reporters users.

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Nigerian and South African celebrities and U-Report supporters, Kate Henshaw and Maps Maponyane, are teaming up with the global agency on the initiative.

“Africa has been battling Covid-19 for two years now,” Kate Henshaw said. “At a time of Omicron, it is more important than ever to get vaccines to the unvaccinated.” “If we want to combat misinformation, it is key to mobilize the continent’s U-Reporters and provide much-needed information on Covid-19 vaccines to save people’s lives”, Maps Maponyane added in a UNICEF report.

AllAfrica’s Andre van Wyk spoke with South African TV and media personality and UNICEF South Africa Advocate Maps Maponyane on the #GiveItAShot challenge.

What was the main motivation for you to become a supporter of U-Report Challenge? 

I am a supporter of the U-Report Challenge because I believe it will play a pivotal role in ensuring that all youth are well informed about the Covid-19 vaccine and will be encouraged to engage in the challenge on the platform. If we have as many youths as possible who have more knowledge about the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines, this will help to curb infection and transmission rates and U-Report is at the centre of this solution.

How will the U-Report Challenge counteract vaccine misinformation on social media? 

The #GiveItAShot challenge is about providing factual information about Covid-19 vaccines to improve confidence in the vaccine and in turn to motivate young people to vaccinate and to encourage those eligible in their community to get vaccinated. The challenge packages and disseminates Covid-19 information and advocacy messages via U-Report, Goodwall (an app) , social media and broadcast media channels, amplified by UNICEF ambassadors and other influencers. decision-makers. Counteracting misinformation on social media also relies on young people themselves to share factual information and the challenge will mobilise youth to become agents of change in their communities promoting vaccinations, raising awareness on Covid-19 and providing learning opportunities.

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Do you think influencers/celebrities have a greater role to play in promoting vaccine acceptance? 

I think influencers and celebrities have a greater role to play in promoting vaccine acceptance because young people turn to them for inspiration and to be part of the impactful work and initiatives that they engage in. It’s important that we use our platform for accurate and positive messaging regarding vaccines. Ultimately if everyone is better protected from Covid-19, livelihoods will also be protected as we return to more normality and that’s beneficial to everyone. So many of us have been affected one way or the other by the effects of Covid-19, and using our platforms and influence to advocate for vaccine acceptance is so crucial in creating a safer environment and community for ourselves and our loved ones.

What is more important or effective: infection-acquired immunity or vaccine-acquired immunity? 

We are still learning about how long immunity to Covid-19 lasts from natural infection, and from vaccination. We are now starting to see evidence that the immunity you get after having Covid-19 can be strong. However, the type of immunity that’s developed after infection varies from person to person, making it less predictable than immunity after vaccination. Scientists are working hard to understand this better. * What we do know is that COVID-19 is a life-threatening disease that can have long-term consequences. We also know that the WHO-authorised Covid-19 vaccines have been safely given to billions of people. It is much safer to get vaccinated than it is to risk getting Covid-19. Get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn and keep doing everything you can to protect yourself and others.

Do you think the government has made progress in the past year in the fight against Covid-19? 

The deaths of more than 95,000 people in South Africa is a tragedy for every family affected. But progress in tackling Covid-19 is being made. More than 30 million people, nearly half the population, have now received a Covid-19 vaccine dose, and UNICEF and partners continue to work to increase that number, particularly among young people, which is why the Give It A Shot challenge is so important.

Does Africa’s lower rate of access to the Internet risk the continent having a long struggle against the pandemic?

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UNICEF and partners have worked on behavior change and vaccination campaigns in countries across Africa for many years. Routine childhood immunization has saved millions of young lives from preventable but deadly diseases, such as measles and polio. The Internet provides extraordinary opportunities to reach people with factual and accurate information but can also breed mis- and dis-information, which in turn needs to be tackled and overcome. However, getting accurate information about how to protect yourself against Covid-19 and getting shots into arms also relies on traditional and community media, as well as primary healthcare centers and mobile health services. Through such services, we continue to work to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and broader health issues.

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AFRICA

Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria Are ‘Hunger Hotspots’ – UN

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The Hunger Hotspots Report which was released by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), says Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen remain the countries of highest concern.

The report issued an early warning for urgent humanitarian action in what they described as 20 “hunger hotspots” where part of the population was likely to face a significant deterioration of acute food insecurity in the coming months, that will put their lives and livelihoods at risk.

To identify hunger hotspots, FAO and WFP assessed how key drivers of food insecurity are likely to evolve and have combined effects across countries in the coming months, and the related risks of deterioration.

In South Sudan, one of the four countries of highest concern, conflict and constrained humanitarian access, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, economic challenges, and elevated food prices, are worsening the situation. Communities have also had to grapple with severe flooding that has caused widespread displacement, damage to agricultural production, the destruction of livelihoods, and compounded existing issues in many regions.

In Nigeria, insecurity and high inflation rates are aggravating acute food insecurity. The situation is of highest concern in conflict-affected Borno State, where around 13,500 people are projected to slide into catastrophic acute food insecurity if humanitarian and livelihood-building interventions are not sustained.

There has been no update for Ethiopia since the July-September 2021 projection when experts concluded that 401,000 people in the Tigray region would likely be facing famine-like conditions. For the agencies, this lack of data is of serious concern. Acute food insecurity levels are likely to have increased and could further rise beyond the Emergency and Catastrophic levels already identified in the last report.

The Horn of Africa, a region already prone to food insecurity, is now facing a third season of drought, driven by La Niña. In Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, the worst affected countries, projections indicate that food insecurity will rise beyond the region’s already high levels by mid of the year. In the Sahel, a weak rainy season has severely affected crop and pasture development.

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BUSINESS

Top Health Tech Start-up’s in Nigeria

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1. LifeBank Nigeria

Founder: Temie Giwa-Tubosun

Launched in 2016, LifeBank is among the top digital health startups in Nigeria. In a bid to largely contribute to the health sector and save the lives of people out there, this platform deals mainly in the speedy transmission of blood from labs nationwide to patients and doctors in hospitals. The main mission of LifeBank is to ensure that blood is available when and where it is needed in any community/area in the nation in order to save lives out there.

Part of the basic activities done at LifeBank include mobilization of blood donations from individuals, taking inventory of the blood available nationwide, and transmission of blood in the right condition to the exact hospitals/locations it is currently needed.

The report shows that the platform has served more than 500 hospitals, transported more than 12,000 products, synergized with nothing less than 6,000 donors with 2,000+ lives being saved.

Due to its high impact in the industry, Life Bank once received coverage from international broadcasting houses, such as CNN and BBC, while the startup also received the total sum of $50,000 from the MIT Global Challenge in September 2018.

2. Omomi

Founders: Owobu Emmanuel Osayi, Charles Akhimien Immanuel, and Raman Anurag.

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Omo mi simply refers to ‘my child’ in Yoruba. It is a web, and mobile-based childcare service developed to help improve the health of younger children by providing parents with ample opportunity to monitor their children’s health easily. 

With this unique app, parents can easily track the immunization status of their kids, manage diarrhea at home via a responsive and interactive DIY platform.

Additionally, it will interest you to know that Omomi has served more than 30,000 mothers up to date, and the platform offers a lot of cool features to help parents make excellent health decisions for their children.

To start with, Omomi has an interactive section where parents can interact with parents from other parts of the country who have had similar experiences in time past. It also comes with a ‘chat-a-doctor’ feature that gives parents access to a doctor for as low as N600 per week.

That’s not all; the app again has the Diarrhoea Management section, where parents will be asked relevant questions to help diagnose the internal disorder. If your child is confirmed to have diarrhea, then proceedings on what to do next will be given to you, or better still the app may recommend chatting with a doctor.

3. Safermom

Founders: Adeloye Olanrewaju and Cletus Ajibade.

SaferMom was established with the sole aim of dealing with high maternal and infant mortality crises in Nigeria. The innovative platform provides expectant/nursing mothers with timely and personalized health information via a two-way SMS system and prerecorded voice services, basically in the dominant native languages.

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Some of the health campaigns delivered by SaferMom include but not limited to – malaria prevention, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis control – all through low-cost mobile technologies! 

In addition to the above, this platform also sports a feature that allows for tracking of vaccinations and medical appointment adherence, widespread of urgent information, among other functions.

4. Find-a-med

Founder: Emeka Onyenwe

Find-a-med, as the name suggests, is a mobile directory that gives pertinent information on the closest health and medical centers around its users. The app features more than 5,000 registered medical centers, showing how large its database is.

With Find-a-med, you will be able to get turn-by-turn directions to the nearest medical health facilities and services to you, ranging from hospital, clinic, pharmacy, dental care, eye care, providers, diagnostics, therapy, laboratory, to name but a few.

If you want to get the very best of Find-a-med, you must grant it access to your current location through your mobile settings. 

Having said that, it is equally worthy of highlighting that you don’t have to sign up or log in before you can use the app, and again there is a catalog of reviewed hospitals on the app to help you make informed decisions as to the medical health facilities to visit.

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5. Kangpe

Founders: Femi Kuti, Ope Olumekan, Matthew Mayaki

Kangpe is a mobile application that allows patients from Nigeria and other countries of the continent to interact with and seek sound advice from seasoned medical practitioners in less than 10 minutes. With this app, you will be able to get in touch with doctors who can give you relevant answers to questions that have to do with your health.

Some of the intriguing features offered on this platform include – “Find a Doctor,” “Book Appointment,” “Health tips,” “Featured questions,” among others. 

6. Drugstoc

Founders: Adham Yehia and Chibuzo Opara

Drugstoc is a health tech startup established in 2015 by Adham Yehia and Chibuzo Opara to help licensed hospitals, pharmacies, and medical experts obtain authentic pharmaceutical and health care products directly from certified distributors nationwide.

According to recent reports, Drugstoc currently serves over 3,000 doctors and pharmacists in the country, and it leverages on the globally accredited end-to-end traceable supply chain to help guarantee the genuineness of its pharmaceutical and health care products.

Again, it is worthy to note that this health tech startup is said to be the only entity in the industry to be ISO certified in the nation, while the firm also got the ISO 9001-2015 certificate in recent times.

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Additionally, Drugstoc was part of the awardees at the 2019 Nigerian Healthcare Excellence Awards. It was awarded the Technology-Driven Distributor Company of the Year at the event.

7. Mobidoc

Founders: Timi Aiyemo and Abiodun Okunola

Mobidoc offers a user-friendly, mobile health consultation platform where people can easily receive consultation from verified healthcare professionals in the country. The headquarter is in Abuja, and it was launched by Timi Aiyemo and Abiodun Okunola to solve certain problems in the Nigerian medical world using the internet.

 

8. Doctoora

Founder: Dr. Debo Odulana

Doctoora Health was founded in 2016. It is an online marketplace for healthcare professionals. They aim to combine technology and infrastructure, which enhances access to healthcare in Africa by providing short-term healthcare facility rentals to health professionals.

Put simply, they are solving the challenge of doctors finding affordable facilities, especially in urban areas where they can be able to treat their patients. By providing quality medical facilities to healthcare providers, they are inadvertently boosting the quality of healthcare delivery in Nigeria. What a genius idea.

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9. Cardium

Founders: Lawal Abdulrazak, and Joshua Abel.

Cardium is a patient-centered health information & management app that promotes health literacy and antimicrobial resistance(AMR) stewardship. The app is designed to educate people and empower them with the right information to make an informed health decision to prevent issues like treatment failure due to medication adherence, poor health literacy, and so on.

This easy-to-use app gives you health information in a streamlined, bit sizes, jargon-free text, coupled with images, video to educate the population on diseases, medications, prevention, and other health information so as to complement the efforts of the healthcare providers.

On the Cardium App a user can:

  • Schedule medication reminders even with the image of the drug.
  • Have access to drug counseling information
  • Track and document vital parameter like BP
  • Access to Medication history
  • Drug & lifestyle-related tips and more are presented in a unique style.

The app is available on play store and it is FREE.

10. Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative

Founder: Dr. Victor Ugo

Nonprofits are often overlooked in the discussion of digital healthcare startups in Nigeria, but they are exactly the same thing. When you talk of building an audience and impact this non organization is as good as any digital healthcare startup in Nigeria.

Mentally Aware NG is one of the most popular healthcare platforms in Nigeria. The  Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) was established by Dr. Victor Ugo in 2016. He began this nonprofit to awareness about mental illness, and provide mental health services to young Nigerians.

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Since then, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) has grown into a formidable user-led community of young people, who are passionate about putting an end to the stigma and discrimination regarding mental health related issues in Nigeria. MANI has made use of social media to provide mental health and counselling to Nigerians. They use WhatsApp and Twitter to run a 24-hour mental health support line for emergency help, advice, counseling, and even a 24-hour suicide hotline.

OTHER AMAZING DIGITAL HEALTH STARTUPS IN NIGERIA WORTH MENTIONING

  • Medismarts – Founded by Damilola Oni And Obinna Osuji
  • Apmis  – Founded by Dr. Simpa Dania 
  • Medenhanz – Founded by Wole Faroun
  • Dokilink – Founded by Niyi Osamiluyi 
  • Ubenwa  – Founded by Charles Onu.

Bottom Line 

Digital health, telemedicine, e-health and mhealth are fast-growing sectors all of the world. The digital health sector in Nigeria is also thriving, because they are clearly many top digital health start-ups with beneficial features. It would be great to learn about them, use them, and recommend them.

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