WHO Flags AI Healthcare Dangers – Are We Ignoring the Poor?

  • Editor
  • January 19, 2024

In a groundbreaking development, WHO’s chief scientists, Jeremy Farrar and Alain Labrique, have spearheaded the organization’s latest initiative to address the ethical challenges posed by the rapid integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently issued new guidelines underscoring the potential risks and ethical dilemmas of this advancing technology. This move marks a significant response to the growing influence of generative AI, including large multi-modal models (LMMs), in transforming healthcare practices globally.

The WHO guidelines highlight the immense possibilities AI holds in revolutionizing healthcare, notably in drug development, diagnosis, and scientific research. However, they also caution against the potential dangers these technologies may pose, particularly in widening the healthcare gap in lower-income countries.

The concern raised by WHO is the risk of AI technologies exacerbating existing healthcare disparities, primarily if they are not developed with inclusivity and a broad range of data sets from diverse populations.

Alain Labrique, the WHO’s director for digital health and innovation, said at a media briefing today, “The very last thing that we want to see happen as part of this leap forward with technology is the propagation or amplification of inequities and biases in the social fabric of countries around the world.” 

Central to the WHO’s warnings is the global impact of AI in healthcare, especially its implications in under-resourced regions. Farrar and Labrique emphasize that the development and deployment of AI in healthcare should not be the sole prerogative of technology companies and developed nations. Instead, a collaborative approach is necessary, involving governments, civil society groups, healthcare beneficiaries, and international regulators. Such collaboration ensures that all stages of LMM development and deployment are ethically sound and inclusive, including oversight and regulation.

WHO isn’t the first to indicate that AI advancement will lead to inequality among nations. Be it in the medical field or any other job, people around the world believe that AI will impact human lives greatly.

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Some have suggested that strict regulations should be made to prevent inequality in society.

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WHO’s guidelines advocate for the involvement of various stakeholders in the AI development process. This strategy aims to prevent the monopolization of AI development by large companies, potentially overshadowing the roles of universities and governments.

To mitigate biases and ensure the effectiveness and safety of AI tools, the WHO suggests mandatory post-release audits of LMMs by independent third parties. Moreover, it highlights the importance of ethics training for software developers working on healthcare AI tools, similar to the training received by medical professionals.

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Dave Andre


Digital marketing enthusiast by day, nature wanderer by dusk. Dave Andre blends two decades of AI and SaaS expertise into impactful strategies for SMEs. His weekends? Lost in books on tech trends and rejuvenating on scenic trails.

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