[New Video & Audio Podcast] Enhancing Maternal & Newborn Health Using Generative AI with Jacaranda Health’s Cynthia Kahumbura & Jay Patel.

In this edition of the Pure Digital Passion podcast, we had the pleasure of hosting Cynthia Kahumbura, Co-Executive Director, and Jay Patel, Director of Technology at Jacaranda Health. Our conversation delved into the impactful work of Jacaranda Health in Kenya, the technological advancements they’ve made, the real-world impacts of their innovations, and their vision for the future. Here’s a breakdown of our enlightening discussion.

Origins and Evolution of Jacaranda Health.

Cynthia shared Jacaranda Health’s mission to ensure all mothers experience safe and respectful pregnancy and childbirth, and all newborns get a safe start in life. The organization partners with governments to deploy scalable solutions in public health systems. The COVID-19 pandemic was a significant turning point, catalyzing a digital transformation that has continued to shape their operations.

Technological Foundations and Scaling Up.

Jay discussed the evolution of Jacaranda Health’s technology stack. Initially relying on a basic messaging system, they have since integrated advanced AI solutions to support their operations. The journey of incorporating AI into their workflows taught them valuable lessons about scalability, flexibility, and the importance of real-world testing.

PROMPTS – Generative AI-Enabled Healthcare.

Jay explained how PROMPTS, their Generative AI-based platform, supports new and expecting mothers through a two-way SMS system. PROMPTS provides gestation stage-specific information and a Generative AI-powered clinical help desk to answer questions and trigger referrals for high-risk cases. Cynthia highlighted the positive reception of PROMPTS among healthcare providers and communities, with nearly 3 million mothers having used the platform since its inception and 600,000 active users annually.

Challenges and Opportunities.

Cynthia and Jay also discussed the significant challenges faced while scaling their technological solutions. Cynthia emphasized the importance of adaptability and collaboration, especially during the rapid expansion necessitated by the pandemic. Jay shared insights into using open-source LLMs like Llama 2 and 3, as well as Google Gemini 1.5 and the development of a Swahili-based LLM to ensure accessibility on entry-level mobile devices.

Real-World Impact and Case Studies.

Jay shared success stories that showcased the real-world impact of Jacaranda Health’s initiatives. For instance, the transition from handling around 100 service queries a day to over 5,000 daily queries was made possible through their generative AI capabilities, significantly improving efficiency and support for mothers. Jay also shared that PROMPTS is now being tested and deployed in other African countries like Eswatini and Ghana showing the broader potential for the Generative AI enabled platform beyond Kenya.

Vision for the Future.

Looking ahead, Cynthia and Jay discussed their vision for the next 2 to 5 years. They see technology and Generative AI becoming increasingly essential to their operations, with a focus on scaling their technology to new geographies and ensuring it remains accessible to all. Jay’s team is working on maintaining responsible, transparent, and ethical AI while continuing to innovate.

Personal Insights and Leadership.

Balancing innovation with practical challenges is a constant endeavour. Cynthia and Jay shared what motivates them: the impact of their work on mothers and babies, the continuous learning, and the collaborative spirit within Jacaranda Health. Their commitment to improving healthcare outcomes in resource-constrained environments is truly inspiring.


As we wrapped up our conversation, Cynthia and Jay offered advice to other organizations looking to implement similar technological solutions in the health sector or any other sectors for that matter as the key principles apply broadly. They emphasized the importance of real-world testing, building simple and scalable systems, and having a good team that can make all this happen. They also shared ways that our audience here can support or get involved with Jacaranda Health’s mission.

Closing Remarks.

Thank you Cynthia and Jay for joining us on the Pure Digital Passion podcast and sharing how Generative AI can be used in pragmatic and practical way ‘on the ground’ in Kenya and Africa to improve health outcomes at scale! Embracing such innovations represents a proactive step towards enhancing healthcare for all. We look forward to having you join us again soon!

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