The Applied Biomedical Signal Processing Intelligent eHealth (ABSPIE) Lab performed 7 field studies in Sub-Saharan Africa, during which hospitals were visited. The multifaceted background of the lab members, including specialty areas such as biomedical engineering, health technology assessment, electrical engineering and bioethics, made possible a thorough analysis of the challenges faced in these low-resource settings. In particular, from these studies, it emerged that there is a limited number of available biomedical engineers and technicians (BMETs) in hospitals, as well as technicians skilled in the maintenance of medical devices. Moreover, the study highlighted how maintenance-related tasks are perceived as a degrading job for men as they are mainly performed daily life by women, whose number among BMETs in Africa is very low. Consequently, from our observations, it seems that the small number of BMETs and the gender-biased cultural perception of maintenance reduce the leadership of BMETs, thus resulting in incredibly low budgets, tools and training for maintenance tasks, which are vital for the safe and effective functioning of medical devices. Hence, we believe there is an urgent need to further study this phenomenon by leveraging local culture (i.e., matriarchal) to increase the leadership and numbers of BMETs in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a special focus on women in the profession. To validate our observations and hypotheses, we distributed questionnaires to African engineers (women and men. Armed with data gathered from this study, our major objective would then be to create in-loco awareness raising programs, in partnership with specific associations in order to increase the number of women accessing scientific studies in these settings, as well as to defeat gender bias, thus, increasing medical device maintenance practices in hospitals.
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