The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have signed a cooperation agreement to use digital services to strengthen public health services in Africa.
The initiative will establish platforms to deliver digital health services such as mHealth, eLearning, Health Information Systems (HIS), and telemedicine among others.
The partnership will also focus on building a capable workforce to effectively use ICT as well as addressing the need of multi-stakeholders partnership models that can bring about sustainable adoption of digital health.
The partnership will bring together several entities including financial institutions, telecommunications operators and ICT companies with the aim of strengthening public-private partnerships to increase the resilience of health systems and improve their services and accessibility through the use of ICT.
“The partnership will tap into this smart, cost-effective solutions by harnessing Africa’s digital revolution to strengthen health systems, such as health service delivery, health, medical information, informing and educating communities,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.
“Our organisations are committed to expanding the use of ICTs in health to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly universal health coverage (UHC) in Africa,” continued Dr Moeti.
According to a statement issued by the WHO, the new agreement will consolidate existing efforts and resources towards making available ICT foundations and platforms that are a requirement for providing and scaling up digital health services.
“Through this partnership we have the opportunity to transform how healthcare is delivered in Africa, and contribute to the attainment of UHC and the SDGs, in particular SDG3 on good health and wellbeing,” said ITU’s Director of Telecommunication Development Bureau, Brahima Sanou.
“In a world where health systems are facing increasing pressure to improve quality, accessibility and affordability, incorporating ICTs in health delivery mechanisms will definitely bring value and break the inequalities that exist in health coverage so that no one is left behind,” continued Sanou.
WHO and the ITU have enjoyed a long-established partnership since 2005, which has contributed to raising awareness of the importance including ICTs in health systems. In 2012, the two organisations developed the WHO-ITU eHealth Strategy Toolkit which was identified as best practice for the development of eHealth standards and interoperability in South Africa by the National Health Normative Standards Framework for Interoperability in eHealth in South Africa (HNSF).
In 2013 the WHO– ITU partnership launched the “Be He@lthy, Be Mobile” global initiative which uses mHealth to fight chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, in low- and middle-income countries.