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Tackling cardiovascular disease with AI

Westmead team with Google’s Mel Silva and Australian Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Hon Karen Andrews MP

Heart disease and cardiovascular health are a major challenge around the world, and in Australia, one in six people is affected by cardiovascular disease. The University of Sydney’s Westmead Applied Research Centre is working on a digital health program for people at risk of cardiovascular disease, and they recently received a $1 million Google.org grant that will help them apply AI to give patients more personalised advice and support.

We sat down with Professor Clara Chow, Professor of Medicine and Academic Director at Westmead Applied Research Centre, and Dr. Harry Klimis, a cardiologist and Westmead PhD student, to hear more about the program.

Why is cardiac health such a big issue? 

Professor Chow: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death and disability worldwide. In Australia, cardiovascular disease affects approximately 4.2 million people, has resulted in more than 1 million hospitalizations, and caused 1 in 3 deaths in 2016. That’s one death every 12 minutes, and these deaths are largely preventable.

How are you proposing to address this problem? 

Chow: Our goal is to support people at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease by encouraging them to adopt healthy habits, such as diet and exercise, and connecting them to health services when they need them. Data and mobile technology means we can do this in ways that weren’t possible before.

Dr Klimis: We’ve already developed mobile health text-message programs using basic algorithms to customise programs to individuals. We now plan to use machine learning and AI to keep improving how we support participants and help them self-monitor measures like cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, physical activity, diet and smoking…

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