What you need to know

  • AI for Health is the latest pillar in Microsoft's AI for Good program.
  • The initiative will see Microsoft invest $40 million to improve health outcomes globally using AI.
  • Microsoft is specifically targeting reductions in child mortality rates, diagnosing diabetic retinopothy, and more.

Microsoft today unveiled the latest pillar in its AI for Good program, dubbed AI for Health. Through the new initiative, Microsoft says it will invest $40 million over the next five years to improve global health outcomes using AI. The program will supply nonprofits and academic researchers with AI tools, cloud computing, and cash grants to pursue ways in which AI can be leveraged to solve global health issues.

According to Microsoft, AI for Health is focused on three key areas:

  • Quest for discovery. Accelerating medical research to advance prevention, diagnoses and treatment of diseases
  • Global health insights. Increasing our shared understanding of mortality and longevity to protect against global health crises
  • Health equity. Reducing health inequity and improving access to care for underserved populations

In particular, Microsoft points to work that AI can do to improve everything from child and maternal mortality rates to diabetic retinopothy screening.

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"There are real health issues in which AI can play an important role, and it may be our best option to accelerate research or expand the reach of new solutions, especially in areas that may lack attention from the commercial health sector," Microsoft said in a blog post announcing AI for Health. From Microsoft:

For example, technology can help scale screenings for diabetic retinopathy – an issue facing 463 million people – to expand the reach of ophthalmologists, as there are only 210,000 in the world. Or in cases such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), where it is tough for organizations to invest in research given the size of the affected population, but there are huge knock-on effects to better understand and mitigate against general infant death.

This is the latest entry in Microsoft's AI for Good program, which explores how AI can be used to improve the world. Other arms of the $165 million initiative include AI for Cultural Heritage, AI for Earth, and more. You can find a full list of programs at Microsoft's AI for Good site.

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