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Meet SARAH, A Digital Health Promoter from WHO to Answer Your Health Query with Empathy

Written by : Arti Ghargi

April 3, 2024

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Image Source: WHO Website

SARAH can interact with users in eight different languages and is available 24/7 on any device. It engages users on a wide range of health topics.

The World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled its latest innovation: SARAH, an AI-powered digital health promoter ahead of World Health Day, themed 'My Health, My Right'.

SARAH stands for Smart AI Resource Assistant for Health and represents a significant leap forward in AI-powered health information avatars.

Equipped with enhanced empathetic response capabilities driven by generative artificial intelligence (AI), SARAH is aimed to transform the way people across the globe access health information.

It can interact with users in eight different languages and is available 24/7 on any device. SARAH engages users on a wide range of health topics, from healthy habits to mental health, empowering individuals to optimize their well-being journey.

Commenting on the development, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “The future of health is digital, and supporting countries to harness the power of digital technologies for health is a priority for WHO.”

“S.A.R.A.H. gives us a glimpse of how artificial intelligence could be used in future to improve access to health information in a more interactive way,” he added.

Understanding SARAH’s Functionalities

SARAH operates on generative AI and not on a pre-set algorithm or script, unlike previous iterations, which enables real-time, personalized interactions with users. It is supported by Soul Machines Biological AI.

The virtual avatar delivers nuanced, empathetic responses as per individual needs, fostering a judgment-free environment for health-related discussions.

WHO Director General also invited the research community to help WHO to explore how this technology could bridge inequities and help people access up-to-date, reliable health information.

WHO said that it acknowledges that ethical concerns surrounding AI including equitable access, privacy, safety and accuracy, data protection, and bias despite its potential.

From equitable access to privacy and bias mitigation, WHO emphasizes the importance of addressing these concerns to ensure that AI benefits all individuals.

“Continuous evaluation and refinement as part of this project emphasize WHO's dedication to bringing health information closer to people while maintaining the highest standards of ethics and evidence-based content,” the organization said.

SARAH builds upon the success of its predecessor, Florence, which played a crucial role in disseminating vital public health messages during the COVID-19 pandemic on the virus, vaccines, tobacco use, healthy eating and physical activity.

With a focus on reliability, responsibility, and accessibility, SARAH represents a pivotal step towards democratizing health information.

WHO’s Digital Tools for Healthcare

WHO has launched several tools and platforms to realize its mission of Right to Health for all individuals across the globe by leveraging technology.

The idea is to meet the users on their existing digital journey to communicate effectively with audiences who may not actively seek public health advice from approved sources.

One such tool is Health Alert Chatbots. Social media and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber early in the Covid-19 pandemic created the WHO Health Alert Chatbot.

The chatbot provided on demand news and information on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 to millions of people. The chatbot is available in more than 19 languages. The WhatsApp chatbot alone has reached over 13.5 million people.

In early 2021, WHO also launched Telecommunications Partnerships in collaboration with ‘Out There Impact’. The partnership was aimed to reach 300 million people with critical preventative COVID-19 information through mobile chat bots using rich media. Over fifteen mobile operator partners are currently involved across Europe, Africa and Asia.

In another effort to democratize health information, WHO partnered with Facebook Free Basics to make science-based health information on COVID-19 available free of data charges on multiple carriers. As per the global organization, this partnership has reached more than 1.5 million of the most vulnerable people on the Internet.


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