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It’s challenging enough to develop artificial intelligence models using health data generated at the world’s most elite academic medical centers. Now, a group of humanitarian organizations is taking on an even steeper challenge: using data collected in developing countries to improve public health overseas.

The Precision Public Health initiative, led by the Rockefeller Foundation and unveiled Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, hopes to deliver cutting-edge tech to parts of the world that have been slow to benefit from it. The idea is that AI and data science could provide health workers important insights they might not otherwise have — say, a suggestion, delivered via a tablet notification, about which houses to visit to check on mothers and children in need of care.


Initially, the initiative will be funded with $100 million. The Rockefeller Foundation will contribute $60 million, UNICEF will chip in $15 million, and the remaining $30 million will come from the initiative’s other partners — the World Health Organization, the Global Fund, the World Bank Group-backed Global Financing Facility, and the public-private partnership known as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

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