• Honourable Ministers;
• Esteemed partners;
• Ladies and gentlemen
• Warm welcome to all, panelists, happy to hold this consultation with our partner International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at the 1st side event of this inaugural AFH.
• Makes this historic occasion; look forward to input from panel and participants on using digital services to accelerate UHC and the SDGs in the African Region.
[Using eHealth to progress SDGs]
• Support for digital solutions, eHealth in several WHA and Regional Committee resolutions (WHA58.28; WHA66.24; AFR/RC60/5).
• First Forum for Strengthening Health Systems for SDGs and UHC, Windhoek, December 2016 adopted Action Framework to guide countries to strengthen health systems, in line with resolution at 66th Regional Committee for countries to implement programmes to support SDGs, increase investment in UHC.
• Here, eHealth identified as critical to impact on health systems and services provided to populations.
• More and more countries in the African region continue to utilize eHealth systems as part of regular health services provision.
• Leading eHealth solutions in the region include mHealth, Telemedicine, eLearning and social media applications.
• Progress also being made around electronic health records systems, needed to ensure continuum of care, contribute towards achievement of the health related SDGs.
• However, challenges remain: interoperability, ICT infrastructure and financial resources to scale up eHealth, connectivity, , as well as low eHealth capacity in the health sector. Another key challenge is the presence of multiple silo eHealth pilots that don’t reach maturity.
[Partnership with ITU]
• Partnership with ITU hopes to address these issues.
• Long-established partnership with ITU (since 2005); greatly contributed to increasing awareness among healthcare leaders, professionals of the importance of including ICTs in health systems.
• ITU plays a unique role in leveraging private sectors and ICT infrastructures to harness digital health for achieving UHC; also for narrowing equity gap, key for UHC and attaining SDGs.
[Demonstration of successful partnership]
• Strategic, smart, cost-effective to harness Africa’s digital revolution to strengthen health systems, such as health service delivery, health, medical information, informing and educating communities
• Growth of mobile networks across the regions – around 70% penetration – makes mHealth the leading eHealth intervention
• With ITU, WHO initiated pilot programmes to prevent NCDs using mobile phones – “Be He@lthy, be mobile”
• For diabetes: Senegal using text messages on mobile phones to remind patients to check blood sugar; for cervical cancer screening and treatment services: Zambia and Burkina Faso using text messages to improve access to information to improve cervical cancer prevention and control; for supply chain management, tracking antimalarial stocks throughout the country using “sms for life” in Tanzania.
• Also improved patient contact with local health workers; empowering both health workers and beneficiaries through access to information
• The RAFT Network (Réseau en Afrique Francophone pour la Télémédecine) provides telehealth services in 15 countries, particularly for patients in rural communities; RAFT network also a WHO Collaborating Centre for eHealth and Telemedicine
• Several E-learning initiatives underway across the Region, e.g. focusing on midwifery
• Makes health workforce education more widely accessible, especially in remote areas; s the health workforce especially among marginalised populations.
• The partnership developed a toolkit, built eHealth capacity in Ministries of Health; use of toolkit led to development of national eHealth strategies.
• Currently, 23 out of 47 countries have national eHealth strategies to regulate their eHealth digital environment.
• Now joining forces to support MS to make full and sustainable use of ICTs in health service delivery for improved population and individual health, particularly underserved communities and remote populations.
• Tremendous potential to scale up ICT in health systems delivery to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all in the region – contribute to international health commitments, especially UHC.
• This is a landmark event - signing of letter of intent with ITU under the auspices of African leaders, Ministers of Health and ICT, to work across sectors for scaling up eHealth programmes in the health sector.
• Hand over to co-chair, Mr Andrew Rugege, ITU.