While it may not have made waves in international news, there is a new development in digital health that is very exciting for us at Bluesquare: The Digital Investment Principles.
If you have not heard of them yet, they are 10 guidelines that donors can endorse to demonstrate their commitment to working together towards improved collaboration in digital health. Created by leading players – the World Bank, the European Union, USAID, Unicef, WHO, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – these 25 key donors and foundations are making their commitment known.
Principles 1-5 focus on collaboration, sustainable alignment in investments and a commitment for donors to make these investments a priority. The last five provide guidance on where the investments should go: creation and evolution, country capacity and peer-learning to call a few out.
At their center is an urgent call. One that we at Bluesquare have championed for the last 5 years – and that is alignment of investments to the national digital health strategies already in place in each country.
We have worked with Ministries of Health in over 25 countries. Our work has focused on integrated health information systems. Health information systems that support decision making from existing data while finding the most cost-effective ways of collecting additional data. We have seen and experienced the challenges to accomplishing this first hand.
These principles could not come at a better time. While they are simple in nature, they demonstrate how far we have come in the last few years for a meaningful dialogue on the importance of coordinated efforts in digital health in developing countries.
We are eager to continue to be part of the important work in this space.
Another year for Bluesquare – The same vision, different ways
At Bluesquare, what drives us is the desire to make the world a better place. Our goal is to ensure that every citizen on this planet has access to a minimum package of health services. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. The community surrounding the Tipo health center in the DRC has benefited from barely any substantial Global Health investment over the last years. So, helping Global Health players allocate their resources in a smarter way, so that it goes where it matters most, is where we can continue to make a difference. How will we get there? We believe that technology and data can influence this allocation in two ways : increase efficiency of existing investments through better data insights and financial disintermediation, and make Global Health a more attractive investment for countries and citizens looking to invest in this space.
But how do we translate this vision into operational priorities? Here is our focus for 2018.
As mentioned in a previous post: internet coverage is increasing in developing countries and universal internet access is no longer just a dream. So, what does this mean for global health? What does this mean for health data systems?
A large number of countries in which we work have shifted their HMIS (health management information system) onto DHIS2 — a popular open source software tool developed by the University of Oslo. Often, the data platform also becomes the country’s de-facto health system data warehouse.
Over the last decades, the health system in Zimbabwe has been confronted with a double crisis: an economic collapse and the AIDS pandemic. This destabilized the health system at its core. And overall life expectancy dropped from 61 years old in the 1990s to 48 years old in 2005, before climbing back up to 58 years old in 2012.
While leading a course at the Tropical Institute of Antwerp, I asked participants (mostly mid-career health professionals from emerging economies) when they thought Internet would be available in the most remote parts of their country. Their median estimate was 2035.
Most of the time, projects are developed without taking the community’s voices and their everyday realities into account. Moreover, many surveys are addressed to communities without seeking their feedback or adjusting programs to meet the local needs. Putting communities in the driver’s seat implies an understanding of their needs and giving them opportunities to express themselves. To fill this gap, more and more donors, NGO’s, and governments are becoming willing to integrate social accountability as an essential component of future public systems.
Next week, the Belgian platform for international health, Be-cause health, will host a seminar on “Health 2.0: are we ready to go digital?” Taking place in Brussels on 24-25 March, the event will seek to identify opportunities and challenges in implementing ICT solutions as part of development cooperation in the health sector.