Digital Health in Africa
By admin January 12, 2017

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In recent years, the rapid growth of digital technology and the expansion of access to mobile phones have created new opportunities to improve public health in Africa. Today, countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are leading the way in using digital solutions for health service delivery. Digital health, as it is known, is the use of digital technology to collect and share data to improve health care. Various tools used include mobile health (mHealth), wearable devices, personalized medicine, etc.

Digital health serves as a platform for reliable information, which is crucial in building a strong healthcare system. During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, mHero, a mobile phone-based communication system helped connect ministries of health and health workers with timely information important to improve healthcare services. Many early mHealth initiatives focused on improving credible information through mobile technologies. In Kenya, in order to help detect unqualified doctors, a local app allowed users to check the legitimacy of healthcare workers. In the past three years, the number of users increased by tens of thousands, which represents a success of how digital technology can improve public health service by informing decisions.

Another positive impact of digital health is improved data collection and measurement of health outcomes. A roadmap lunched in June 2015 at the Summit on the Measurement and Accountability for Results in Health held in Washington, D.C.. emphasized the role of mobile devices as an important source to collect and share health-related data. These data are important to assess a country’s performance, monitor public health risks and analyze healthcare trend. Health monitoring and accountability lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) should be built on in the post-2015 era to tackle the persistent challenge of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all.

Despite success stories of digital health, challenges remain in the future. Expanding the benefits of digital innovations requires access to mobile devices, internet, low-price mobile data, and digital literacy. Initiatives such as Africa Code Week are devoted to equip African youth with digital knowledge and enable them to interact with digital space in a meaningful way. Another major challenge is scaling up digital health. Although there are many cost-effective pilot projects, most of them are yet to be implemented at scale. To fill this gap, business models, marketing strategies and technical considerations should be reviewed and adjusted accordingly. Government also plays a pivotal role in forming collaboration and creating standards. To realize the full potential of digital health, investment should not only be focused on disease-centered projects, but also health infrastructure, health information system and the broader national health system.


Read more:

Challenges and Opportunities in Scaling Up Digital Health

Trends in Digital health in Africa

mHealth in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities

mHealth Innovations: Lessons from Africa’s Digital Boom

Digital Health: Moving from Silos to Systems

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