Peter Nyasulu

eHNA Profile

  • Malawi meeting exposes eHealth barriers

    eHealth has lots of barriers. In Africa, many of these are long-standing. Two recent reports have emphasised the need to deal with them. One is Africa Regional Meeting on Digital Health for Overcoming Barriers to Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths and Achieving Universal Health Coverage. It’s from the event in Lilongwe, Malawi, in May 2015, and is part of the African Strategies for Health (ASH) initiative, a five-year project financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Management Sciences for Health (MSH) is implementing it.

    The other’s Advancing eHealth in Africa from the African Centre for eHealth Excellence’s (Acfee) African eHealth Forum, held in July 2015. It recognises a wide range of health and healthcare alignment for eHealth, and has found an unexpectedly large number and wide range of long-standing eHealth challenges that African health systems are facing, obstructing their ability to make eHealth progress.

    eHNA decided to assemble a simplified comparison to help countries to see some of the different perspectives at a glance when they’re exploring lessons and guidance for their developing eHealth programmes. It’s in the table:

    Perhaps a striking difference between them is that Advancing eHealth in Africa found the need to rebalance eHealth strategies as a way forward, and that reaching scale would be unlikely if eHealth’s entrenched challenges are not dealt with. Both reports recognise the importance of partnerships and collaboration for eHealth to realise its systems strengthening potential.

  • AeF shows healthcare priorities have high level themes

    Africa has well known constraints in its healthcare. Not all priorities can be met within extremely constrained healthcare resources. For successful eHealth, it’s essential that it helps to deal with the high priority ones. It’s this strategic context that the African Centre for eHealth Excellence (Acfee) includes in setting eHealth policies, strategies and programmes.

    The dialogue with its Advisory Board and industry partners at the African eHealth Forum (AeF) identified the healthcare priorities that go beyond goals of health system strengthening. A wide range of integrated initiatives are needed, and eHealth’s role’s outlined the Advancing eHealth in Africa. You can access the report from the left tab on eHNA's Home page.

    Meeting more healthcare priorities needs more and better healthcare. It means improving its current capacity and capability and equipping it to deal with the growth in health needs and demands. There are a few main, longstanding themes, each of which has their own complexities and specific solutions. eHealth’s part of achieving these. It can help to:

    • Improve healthcare commitment, quality, cost-effectiveness and efficiency
    • Improve responses to epidemics, including prompt identification and recognition and resource deployment
    • Reach rural communities for both basic and complex healthcare, including better post and ante-natal care
    • Reduce reliance on health services in other countries.

    The diagram shows a summary from the report.

    Behind each of these, there’s a considerable array of changes and transformations needed across a wide range of healthcare activities. Each African country has its own relative healthcare priorities, and these need identifying and linked to specific contributions that various types of eHealth can provide.

  • AeF's report focuses on saving lives

    Africa has well known health problems and priorities. For successful eHealth, it’s essential that it helps to deal with the high priority ones. It’s this strategic context that the African Centre for eHealth Excellence (Acfee) starts from in setting eHealth policies, strategies and programmes.

    The dialogue with its Advisory Board and industry partners at the African eHealth Forum (AeF) identified the health priorities that include two overarching goals:

    • Prevent avoidable deaths
    • Improve health and productivity.

    These link to other priorities. One is to improve the widening mortality gap because women are living increasingly longer than men. eHealth also needs to help to provide for more people, especially:

    • Children, to meet the needs of 50% more children in the next 35 years forecast by UNICEF
    • High-fertility rates and increasing numbers of women of reproductive age, resulting in the birth of two billion babies in Africa over the next 35 years
    • Doubling of continent’s population, and its under-18 population increasing by two thirds to almost a billion.

    The result will be immensely increased demand on healthcare and education arising from these demographics. These are outlined in Advancing eHealth in Africa, the report of Acfee’s first African eHealth Summit. You can access the report from the left tab on eHNA's Home page. It includes a diagram showing the wide range of health priorities that eHealth has to contribute to.

    The relative emphasis of these will differ between countries, and some will have additional priorities. Explicit links to eHealth plans are needed to set eHealth priorities and projects in a way that helps to meet countries’ health goals. Not all these provide immediate benefits, but projects need setting in a sequence that maximises sustainable, big scale, medium and longer term health gains. A checklist includes:

    • Expanded access to reproductive health services,
    • Greater empowerment of citizens over their health
    • Better maternal and child health, including better pregnancy and ante-natal and post-natal care
    • Improved rural populations’ health
    • Meeting other MDG and SDG goals
    • Continuing progress on infectious diseases
    • Continuing improvements dealing within Communicable Diseases (CD) with more sustained action
    • Increasing improvements in dealing with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) with new and sustained action
    • Trauma services that cope with increasing demand
    • Action to prevent illness, including reduced obesity
    • Improved responses to epidemics, including expanded and improved eSurveillance
    • Stronger civil registration and vital statistics systems.

    These are daunting priorities for Africa’s resource-constrained health systems. It’s essential that affordable and effective eHealth plays it role in full.

  • Namibia's President wins the Ibrahim Prize

    Each year, the Ibrahim Foundation awards the Ibrahim Prize for Achievements in African Leadership to a worthy African president who’s about to retire. This year’s winner is Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

    The criteria are:

    • Is a former African Executive Head of State or government
    • Left office in the last three years
    • Is democratically elected
    • Has served his or her term as mandated by the constitution
    • Has demonstrated exceptional leadership.

    The Ibrahim Prize has three goals:

    • Recognise and celebrate African leaders who have developed their countries, lifted people out of poverty and paved the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity
    • Highlight exceptional role models for the continent
    • Ensure that Africa continues to benefit from the experience and expertise of exceptional leaders when they leave national office by enabling them to continue in other public roles on the continent.

    The President was elected in 2004, then again in 2009.

    His terms extend across the period when Namibia introduced its Integrated Health Care Information Management System (IHCIMS). It started in 2011. In the same year, it opened its Information Communications Technology (ICT) Centre of Excellence at the University of Namibia in collaboration with Telecom Namibia.

    eHNA and the African Centre for eHealth Excellence (Acfee) is delighted to add its congratulations to all the others that he will receive.

  • Fresh views from guest editor

    Last week Dr Ousmane Ly, our guest editor, spiced up eHNA with fresh insights. His exposition reminded us of eHealth’s context and role on the African continent. Dr Ousmane highlighted eHealth’s extraordinary diversity, its African talent and the potential and challenges for eHealth to strengthen the African health delivery system. He also introduced eHNA’s first French pieces. Thumbs up to Dr Ousmanne Ly.

    As the Swahili saying goes “Visitor’s footfalls are like medicine; they heal the sick.” eHNA has lined up more guest editors for the months to come. What will they bring? We’ll introduce the next one later this week.