Kenyan startup MyAfya uses mobile to fight hypertension

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MyAfya founder Jackline Murimi knows all about hypertension, otherwise know as high blood pressure.

“I have lost more than five relatives to high blood pressure. My mum is also hypertensive and currently under medication,” she tells Disrupt Africa.

Such a situation is not unusual in Kenya, where at least 15 per cent of adults suffer from hypertension. Only 20 per cent are aware of their hypertensive status, and therefore most do not seek medical attention. These numbers are on the increase, dangerously so as high blood pressure can lead to heart failure, stroke, or kidney failure.

Murimi, however, has come up with a solution. MyAfya, her way of ensuring her mother manages her condition effectively, was launched as a startup in March 2016. It provides a mobile application, both on Android and USSD, that allows users to monitor their blood pressure.

Users are able to take their blood pressure using cuffs, and record their systolic, diastolic and pulse readings using the app, allowing them and their doctors to track trends. MyAfya turns a user’s mobile device into a personal mobile health companion, making it easier to record information.

Hypertension sufferers are able to share their information and communicate with doctors directly through the app, and can also set reminders for when to take their medication.

“There’s currently no such application in Kenya, but there are quite a number of them abroad that have proven to be major successes. Some of the applications in the Kenyan market are mostly focusing on diabetes,” Murimi said.

“The existing alternatives to MyAfya are local clinics and pharmacies that offer blood pressure measuring services to their clients when they visit. These measurements are only recorded when the patient visits and might not be conclusive enough for efficient monitoring and management.”

MyAfya, however, allows the user to monitor their blood pressure from the comfort of their own home or office, and can help determine whether the patient really has high blood pressure or if it is simply a case of “white coat” hypertension, where the pressure rises when visiting a doctor.

Murimi’s self-funded startup has already established partnerships with eight women groups, and is in advanced talks with two more. Currently over 100 people are using the service to track their blood pressure.

The app is free to use, with revenues coming from retailing blood pressure cuffs at a margin, while the startup also organises health and wellness forums at a cost. Murimi said MyAfya is yet to break even but hopes to do so in the next six months.

“We have local suppliers of the cuffs so we retail them at a profit. The users also have an option of purchasing the monitor via installments but at a higher amount,” she said.

“We are currently operating in Kenya, where we are running pilot tests in five major counties. We hope to expand to Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania in the next three years.”

With this in mind, MyAfya is currently fundraising to procure more cuffs, as demand is greater than supply, and also to hire more staff to increase efficiency. Murimi said she is looking for US$50,000.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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