SDG’s (4)

Improving African’s health’s a demanding feature of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

At this year’s eHealth ALIVE conference, Daniel Murenzi, eHealth and Informatics lead for the East African Community (EAC) set out plans for eHealth and accountability towards their SDGs. A special emphasis is attaining the SDG Goal 3.Two parts of goal 3 are especially important. One is 3.8, achieving universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. The other’s 3.d, strengthening healthcare capacity, especially early warnings, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.

The means to get there is accountability, and eHealth is the enabler. eHealth will serve two main functions. One’s to provide the data and evidence to implement and reach the SDG goals and targets, so tell us where we are and how quickly we have to go reach the goals. The other’s using mHealth, telemedicine and telediagnosis to achieve better healthcare. eHealth also has the potential to help to cross many barriers, such as the Human resources for Health (HRH), low capacity and shortage of assets such as equipment and infrastructure. It could also bring down the healthcare costs considerably.

Two other benefits of eHealth are important too. eHealth is a game-changer. It’s the key accelerator technology that can create a new trajectory to take us off the business as usual path. ICT, especially mobile broadband, has demonstrated the fastest, global technology uptake in human history, and its healthcare can harness its impacts and values.

ICT offers healthcare a new, high value platform for achieving SDGs. When the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were set in 2000, broadband was maturing. There were 750 million mobile subscriptions worldwide. Now, there are over seven billion mobile subscriptions globally, and used by over 90% of the world´s population will have access to mobile broadband networks by 2021. This new universal connectivity offers an invaluable platform to deliver essential services like government services, education, health, energy and financial inclusion, and ensure that no-one’s left behind.

These are the opportunities for Africa. The challenge is to take them.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to guide priorities for developments needed in emerging countries, and for the sustainable transition needed across the world over the next 15 years. They include most of the highest priority objectives of the world’s economic, social and environmental agendas says an article in IT NEWS AFRICA.

A report prepared by Accenture for the Global e-sustainability Initiative (GeSI) shows how ICT can help countries achieve their SDG objectives by 2030.

To  improve people’s lives, an estimated 1.6 billion people could benefit from more accessible, affordable and better quality medical services through eHealth.

Through eHealth’s strategic deployment ICT sector can be a catalyst to help solve critical and complex social, economic, and environmental challenges. However, Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations’ specialised agency for ICT, emphasises that despite the potential of technology, more than four billion people globally have yet to be connected. He said “Connecting the unconnected and bridging the digital divide must be addressed as an urgent policy priority requiring more innovative public-private partnerships and finance and investment models’”.

Recurring themes throughout the report are the need for innovation and collaboration. Companies like Global Voice Group (GVG) are already making their contribution. GVG has developed innovative solutions that enable real-time data-driven governance supported by highly reliable and effective data systems. Patrice Baker, CEO of GVG believes that “Taking advantage of digital solutions will give countries the ability to measure, track and advance the SDGs within trusted environments and enable true progress.”

African governments can use technological advances to take charge of their own socio-economic future through the smart integration of ICTs. eHealth, and its components such as mHealth, telemedicine, patient registries, analytics and Big Data are essential in helping countries reach their SDG’s goals for health.  

Improving, combining and using health data offers important gains for policy initiatives. Kenya’s Ministry of Health, supported by WHO, has started its Health Data Collaborative (HDC) to integrate its health data systems into a unified, more efficient framework.

There are still gaps in the country’s health information system and eHealth skills, especially in producing high-quality data and effectively using and analysing data to tackle priorities such as infectious diseases, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. It’s a permanent state of eHealth where solving priority one results in priority two rising to the top of the list.

A common constraint is data systems that focus on single diseases sometimes operating in isolation. Limited integration and interoperability restricts their value to support government’s health initiatives. Their value’s enhanced significantly when data from several agencies can be combined.

The HDC aims to harmonise financial and technical resources so they line up with country’s priorities. Kenya’s the first African country to launch the initiative. Dr Isabella Maina, head of Kenya’s Health Sector Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) says it’s needed to support “Our efforts toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. We need a strong health information system and M&E programme to track and guide our progress toward meeting those goals.”

Several agencies combine for the HDC. They include other development agencies, countries, donors and academics. The next step’s to bring in between five and eight countries in 2016-17. It’ll be a big breakthrough for Africa’s eHealth.

This year, after 15 years, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) reach the end of their life. The top priority for the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is eradicating poverty. Better health is goal 3 of the 17 SDGs. It’s described as “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” The components are:

  • Reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births
  • End preventable deaths of new born children and under fives
  • End the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
  • Reduce by a third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well being
  • Strengthen prevention and treatment of substance abuse
  • Halve global deaths and injuries from road traffi­c accidents
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, including family planning, information and education, and integrating reproductive health into national strategies and programmes
  • Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare and safe, elective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all
  • Substantially reduce deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination
  • Strengthen WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
  • Support research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases
  • Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retaining health workers
  • Strengthen the capacity for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.

These are wide-ranging. As a strategic framework for African countries’ eHealth plans, they reveal a need for an equivalent wide-ranging and integrated investment, and avoiding a set of independent initiatives. This requires moves towards interoperability, analytics and a socio-technical architecture that extends from healthcare to people and communities. Each of these needs an expansion to current endeavours and a sustainable investment.