YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon — It is generally well known that the biggest killer in Africa is HIV/AIDs. What is less well known is that the second biggest killer is cardiovascular disease. A new device built by a young engineer from Cameroon could make cardiovascular disease in Africa manageable.
Marc Arthur Zang was only 24 when he patented the CardioPad in 2009. In his own words, “the tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse’s tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.”
In Zang’s native Cameroon, the population of 22 million people has only 40 heart surgeons to call on for care. Most of them are based in important economic hubs, like Douala and Yaoundé. Right now, cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in the continent for adults over 30 years old, and people in rural areas have almost no chance of seeing a cardiologist. If the CardioPad were to become available throughout the country, even people in the most remote villages could be checked for signs of cardiovascular disease. Early diagnosis could mean the difference between life and death for many patients.
The CardioPad has been hailed as a major breakthrough by the Cameroon scientific community. The 25 centimeter pad device has a 97.5 reliability rate. Hanns Nfor of the Cameroon Medical Council said, “That boy[Zang] is a genius. He is very, very, intelligent. He needs to be assisted in his effort to help people.”
Zang’s invention is made especially impressive by the fact that he is self-taught. “When I decided to design the tablet at the electronic level, I did not have the knowledge because I was basically a computer science engineer. So I decided to learn electronics online. So I went to the internet and discovered a free education program provided by the Indian Institute of technology. This is how I learned electronics online,” said Zang.
Building the CardioPad was only the first challenge. Zang has been on a quest to fund his project for years now. He received the equivalent of about $33,000 USD from the Cameroonian government to develop his prototype. After it proved successful, he found a factory in China to produce the CardioPads. Eventually, he says, he would like them to be manufactured in Cameroon in order to provide jobs to local people.
In early April of this year, Zang became one of 10 nominees for the Innovation Prize for Africa. If he wins, he will receive $150,000 for his project. Regardless of the results of the competition, it is clear that Marc Arthur Zang will never give up on the dream of bringing medical care to those who need it most.
– Marina Middleton