“Digital Transformation is not an option. It is an imperative. The time is now to be part of the 4th industrial revolution. The journey has started.” – Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma FAPH, Director, Africa CDC
I believe that creating strong networks in the digital health space is one way of working towards improving health outcomes.
Conferences are one such space where this collaboration can be achieved and, in December, I was able to attend the 2nd Annual International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) held in Kigali, Rwanda from December 13th to 15th 2022, as well as at the Africa HealthTech Summit, which was held concurrently in the same venue.
These conferences provided a platform for bringing together a diverse gathering of public health and Information Communications Technology (ICT) stakeholders to forge partnerships for the acceleration of the use of digital health technologies for improving health care and strengthening health systems on the African continent, under the theme of “Digitalization – Towards universal quality care and resilient health systems“.
Both concurrent events had a strong focus on digital health and that was a driving factor in my attendance, as there is a need for VillageReach to establish and reestablish networks, especially among people who are key to the work we’re doing and key to helping us achieve the objectives we have in health care delivery.
This year’s CPHIA and the Africa HealthTech Summit gave over 2,500 attendees the chance to meet both in person and virtually and create visibility around their work, especially in regards to public health digital transformation agenda.
There were three key takeaways that emerged for me over the course of the 4-day discussion that I believe will be key to driving forward this agenda and are necessary to improve health outcomes on the African continent in the next five years:
1. In the public health digital transformation agenda, the private sector plays a crucial role
For us to strengthen health systems, the private sector needs to be involved.
Governments must leverage technology and innovation through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in order to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). By bringing in and engaging with the private sector through a well-structured private sector engagement strategy and creating enabling environments in which these can be executed, the digital transformation agenda can be realized. VillageReach has shared perspectives on what is needed to accelerate private sector engagement and integrate private sector capacity into public health systems.By bringing in and engaging with the private sector through a well-structured private sector engagement strategy and creating enabling environments in which these can be executed, the digital transformation agenda can be realized. Click To Tweet
2. Collaboration is the new competition.
A coordinated and well-resourced digital health infrastructure and innovations are a priority strategy for meeting Africa’s UHC goals, and African-based innovators play a key role in this transformation. As part of a collaboration between the Global Fund and private sector partners such as Anglo American, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Dimagi, Medic, Medtronic LABS, Novartis Foundation, Orange and Zenysis, the Digital Health Impact Accelerator (DHIA) was officially launched at the Africa HealthTech Summit and aims to accelerate digital health transformation in African countries by providing a $50M catalytic fund in the form of financial and in-kind resources. At VillageReach, radical collaboration is one of the values that vital to our mission.
3. Government stewardship is key for integration, sustainability and scaling.
In December 2020, only 22% (12/54) of Africa’s 54 countries were implementing a national digital health strategy, despite 63% (34/54) having developed one. It will be necessary for African governments to prioritize the establishment of focused digital health departments within their ministries of health in order to realize the digital health “Mpesa” moment.In December 2020, only 22% of Africa's 54 countries were implementing a national digital health strategy. It's necessary for African governments to prioritize the establishment of focused digital health departments in order to realize the… Click To Tweet
Adopting the 2001 Abuja Declaration and allocating at least 15% of their budgets to the health sector, as well as leveraging private sector expertise for the development and implementation of national digital health strategies, will be crucial. This is aligned to our Transitioning Well work, which guides our approach to co-creating and transitioning equitable and sustainable solutions to government and partners.
It is clear that many of the key takeaways that emerged from the conference were ones that we as VillageReach are already aligned with and that continue to drive the work we are doing. Moving forward from the conference, I hope to use the connections made and lessons learned to make more people aware of VillageReach’s bodies of knowledge in the digital health space.
Creating bodies of knowledge that can be shared gives us an opportunity to further support governments and partners as we work towards tech-enabled, people-centered health systems that bridge the technology and data gap, transforming health care delivery to reach everyone.Creating bodies of knowledge that can be shared gives us an opportunity to support governments and partners as we work towards tech-enabled, people-centered health systems that bridge the technology and data gap, transforming health care… Click To Tweet